Sometimes we forget that even adults can suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Although the issues are often more readily apparent in children, and many children grow out of them or learn to cope to better fit in, there are adults who continue to struggle for years. There are even some who develop this overstimulation or hypersensitivity when they become adults! Here is what the experts have to say about it.
First, they note that the coronavirus pandemic has led to sensory overload-related experiences becoming more commonplace. This happens as a result of a disrupted routine — and we’ve all had our routines disrupted over the past twelve months.
Varleisha D. Gibbs is Vice President of practice engagement and capacity building for the Occupational Therapy Association. She explains, “We are conditioned to engage with our environment. We expect certain experiences, routines, and rituals to occur. When they do not, discomfort could arise due to not getting our sensory needs met.”
The consequences are different for everyone because, after all, SPD is a very individualistic condition. One person’s symptoms might vary from another’s by a wide margin. For some, staying indoors is the right way to approach sensory overload. For others, some actually need more sensory input. In those cases, it’s best to get outside (as safely as possible, with a mask and the expectation of social distancing even in public).
Anyone experiencing sensory overload during these trying times can only take it one step at a time, and that means first identifying the sensory triggers. Are bright lights most burdensome? Loud sounds? Certain tactile sensations? One way to combat oversensitivity to these items is simply to avoid them, or focus on something else. While TV and video games can turn into addictive behaviors, they can provide an important distraction when used in moderation.
Even at home, there’s one thing more important than any other: take breaks from work or play, and then be sure to hydrate, eat well, and get at least eight hours of sleep.