What is Sensory Processing Sensitivity? Traits, Insights, and ADHD Links

What is Sensory Processing Sensitivity?

Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), or environmental sensitivity (ES), is a biologically-based trait characterised through higher consciousness and sensitivity to the environment. A highly sensitive person — whether or not kid or adult — processes sensory stimuli and data more strongly and deeply than do others. Individuals with SPS specific those characteristics:

  • Deeper cognitive processing
  • More attention to subtleties
  • Greater emotional reactivity
  • Pausing ahead of appearing
  • Greater consciousness of environmental and social stimuli, together with the moods and emotions of others

What Does It Mean to Be a Highly Sensitive Person?

Researchers of quite a lot of disciplines – from psychology, sociology, human development, biology, and extra – have lengthy known differing sensitivity levels among folks. Dr. Elaine Aron, a clinical analysis psychologist who coined the term “the extremely touchy particular person” in her 1996 book (#CommissionsEarned), also evolved a now extensively used scale that measures responses to other stimuli. According to the dimensions, some markers of highly sensitive folks (HSPs) include:

  • Needing to withdraw (privateness from stimulation)
  • Being easily crushed through shiny lights, sturdy smells, loud noises, clothes materials, and different stimuli
    Being affected by other people’s moods
  • Feeling pissed off or overwhelmed when requested to do too many things immediately
  • Becoming fearful when seen appearing a job
  • Sensitivity to caffeine

A Highly Sensitive Child Scale is also to be had and used. This scale divides behaviors into 3 distinct components of SPS. Discomfort with loud noises, for example, is related to a low sensory threshold. Nervousness when having to do multiple duties in a short amount of time is linked to ease of excitation. Responding to pleasant stimuli, like music, scent, and scenery, is related to aesthetic sensitivity.

[Hypersensitivity Is Real: Why Highly Sensitive People Have ADHD]

Is Sensory Processing Sensitivity a Disorder?

SPS is not a disorder, however relatively an innate trait. It must now not be at a loss for words with sensory processing disorder (SPD), through which the mind has problem organizing and processing sensory stimuli. SPS, when put next, is no longer related to dysregulation, but with awareness, depth of processing, and needing time to process knowledge and stimuli.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity: Prevalence and Origins

Early studies estimate that 20 p.c of the inhabitants could also be “extremely touchy.”1 Researchers every now and then seek advice from extremely touchy people as orchids, given the flower’s responsiveness to changes in its surroundings. Less sensitive folks, alternatively, are known as dandelions.

More recent research, however, means that there is also three groups of touchy folks2. About 40 p.c of folks in this framework fall right into a quite touchy team (tulips). Low-and high-sensitive people every make up about 30 percent of people. Research appears to be pointing to sensitivity as a continuum fairly than having definitive categories. This theory encourages taking into account environmental elements in tandem with biology when finding out how sensitivity manifests (genetic analysis suggests, for example, that about 50 p.c of sensitivity is heritable3).

[Read: “My Socks Feel Weird!” Morning Help for the Highly Sensitive Child]

Sensory Processing Sensitivity and the Brain

Recent research issues to distinctive neural task amongst extremely touchy other folks.

Our 2014 fMRI find out about discovered that the anterior insula, part of the brain associated with emotional processing and visceral sensations (just like the intestine emotions that ceaselessly accompany empathy), displays upper activation in extremely touchy people4. The study, partly, had individuals look and react to photographs of companions and strangers experiencing a spread of certain and adverse feelings.

The extremely sensitive members who looked at satisfied pictures in their partners, moreover, had extra mind activation in spaces related to physically sensations. Seeing a partner smile, or reflecting on a spouse’s happiness, led to larger activation in the ventral tegmental space (VTA), a key dopamine house of the mind also associated with motivation, energy, emotions of euphoria, and reward. Seeing unhappy pictures of their partners activated areas of the mind connected to cognitive processing, reflective thinking, and point of view.

In another find out about5, we found that highly sensitive people who also reported a good formative years revel in showed even higher VTA job after seeing sure photographs. In response to unfavourable images, these individuals, interestingly, showed activation in spaces associated with self-regulation and cognitive processing. VTA process, in the meantime, showed lowered task according to unfavourable images for those with unfavourable youth reviews.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity and ADHD

Sensory processing sensitivity and attention deficit hyperactivity dysfunction (ADHD or ADD) do overlap in some ways. Both are characterized, in part, by way of emotional reactivity and overstimulation. The possibility for anxiety and temper problems is higher, especially if a touchy individual experienced a destructive early life. ADHD and SPS can also affect interpersonal and educational performance. They are, on the other hand, inherently different.

ADHD is a neuropsychiatric dysfunction characterized by means of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. Sensory processing sensitivity, meanwhile, is proposed to be a biological temperament trait noticed in people who find themselves more sensitive to environmental and social stimuli. A kid with ADHD, for instance, would possibly display impulsivity in response to an awesome surroundings, but a touchy kid would more likely pause and mirror earlier than taking motion.

Brain activity also delineates the adaptation between the two. ADHD is related to much less activation in cognitive processing areas that have an effect on self-regulation, consideration, and inhibition. With SPS, there is in reality extra activation in those spaces, together with depth of processing and empathy.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity Interventions

Despite overlapping traits, it is possible to have SPS and ADHD. For people with ADHD who suspect SPS, it is important to imagine the extent and length of responses to stimuli, in addition to the aforementioned core characteristics of SPS (like being reflective, extra empathetic, and cautious to act), particularly as they are going to have manifested in childhood. Interventions can include:

  • Taking the Highly Sensitive Person Scale, also to be had at the LoveSmart app
  • Keeping calm and comfortable environments
  • Decreasing sugar and caffeine intake
  • Engaging in actions that build resilience, vanity, and self-regulation (e.g. meditation, yoga, and talk-therapy)

The content material for this newsletter used to be derived from the ADDitude Expert Webinar “Why Are You So Sensitive? Understand How Sensory Processing Sensitivity Affects the ADHD Brain” with Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D., which was once broadcast survive November 18, 2020.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity: Next Steps

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1 Boyce, W. T., & Ellis, B. J. (2005). Biological sensitivity to context: I. An evolutionary-developmental theory of the origins and purposes of pressure reactivity. Development and psychopathology, 17(2), 271–301. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0954579405050145

2 Lionetti, F., Aron, A., Aron, E.N. et al. Dandelions, tulips and orchids: evidence for the existence of low-sensitive, medium-sensitive and high-sensitive folks. Transl Psychiatry 8, 24 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-017-0090-6

3 Assary, E., Zavos, H.M.S., Krapohl, E. et al. Genetic architecture of Environmental Sensitivity reflects multiple heritable elements: a dual study with teens. Mol Psychiatry (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-020-0783-8

4 Acevedo, B. P., Aron, E. N., Aron, A., Sangster, M. D., Collins, N., & Brown, L. L. (2014). The highly touchy brain: an fMRI learn about of sensory processing sensitivity and response to others’ feelings. Brain and habits, 4(4), 580–594. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.242

5 Acevedo, B. P., Jagiellowicz, J., Aron, E., Marhenke, R., & Aron, A. (2017). Sensory processing sensitivity and formative years high quality’s results on neural responses to emotional stimuli. Clinical Neuropsychiatry: Journal of Treatment Evaluation, 14(6), 359–373.

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