Some time ago, we used to live on a noisy street. Our house overlooked the express, so it was not an uncommon occurrence to be roused from a deep sleep in the middle of the night by the high honking sound of one of those heavy-duty vehicles that had a thing or two to do with midnights. Many of us must have experienced such in our own neighbourhoods too.
It might not have been a vehicle, maybe the sound from a chainsaw lumbering its way halfway through a tall tree hard by, or you once lived in a storeyed apartment house below some psychotic neighbour who had a preference for cooking around midnight, smashing the entire rack of stainless steel dishes on the floor while they rummaged for some clumsy spoon.
It matters less what the source of the noise is, they could be utterly unsettling in their own way. And to someone who has got a sensory processing disorder, thoughts of being exposed to such noise could seem the herald of their life’s termination!
It would be erroneous to depict a picture of SPD as just a disorder owing to over-sensitivity to sound impulses alone. SPD, sensory processing disorder, is a mental disorder which affects how the brain processes sensory information in a remarkable way. It affects how a person reacts to certain sensations from touch, to sound, to taste, to visual sensations or at times even certain foods may be revolting.
In other cases, SPD may affect multiple senses, in that the person may have a mix of over feel and under-sense. Persons in the latter category may over-react to mild impulses, like a light tap on the shoulder, and may as well feel other intense stimuli, such as high-pitched sound, mildly, if at all. Hence, sensory processing disorder is two-fold, that is, either of the hypersensitive or the hyposensitive type. It is common in children but also occurs in adults, especially those who grew with the untreated case into adulthood.
If people think you weird, perhaps because you seem to hear sounds which they can’t hear or perhaps you don’t seem to feel a hot iron on your bare skin, it may be a pointer to an SPD. It had been stated earlier that SPD manifests in two forms, either as hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity, hence the sensitivities a person in the former category may have would differ significantly from that of the people in the latter. Thus the showings of this disorder are aptly bundled in these two distinct categories.
For people with the hyposensitive case, only deeper sensory inputs than usual can bring the sensations to their cognizance. For example, they may catch themselves chewing on things, sometimes their own clothing or hands before they can feel relaxed.
They find it difficult to sit still in a seat, perhaps because they can’t seem to feel the seat under them. Although it is normal to feel dizzy after spinning around for a while yet these persons may not feel that way at all. In some cases affecting the proprioceptive receptors, they can’t seem to know when they’ve got a running nose or when they unintentionally sit on a wet surface.
On the other hand are those who are hypersensitive, those who may scream blue murder when you plug a low-playing headphone in their ear. Have you ever been so scared of entering into a lit up room that you feel you’d give your ghost up if someone should drag you into it? You may be having an SPD due to hypersensitivity.
Other manifestations are that having your hair cut bothers you a lot because clippers are too hard on your hair, you feel uncomfortable wearing a polo shirt with a label on (It chafes you to a frenzy!), or you avoid meat pies because they are too hard and crunchy to eat, then you aren’t far from a sensory processing disorder.
Sensory processing disorder is not a recognised disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual but experts think it may be a symptom of autism as many people on the autism spectrum have a sensory processing disorder. At any rate, sensory processing disorder may weaken the self-concept of its sufferers, often leading to depression.
The cause of this mental condition has not been discovered yet but those suspected with this disorder may develop coping mechanisms to make SPD less perceptible. So, if you dread being encapsulated in a hug or being tapped on the shoulder or slapped a high-five, or any such everyday events as aforementioned, you would like to see a doctor, trust me.