Understanding and Managing Sensory Processing Issues in Adults

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I'm here to share my insights based on my experience as a practicing occupational therapist for over 30 years. Our focus for today is sensory processing issues in adults.


Unraveling Sensory Processing Issues:

Sensory processing issues aren't just for children! Adults experience them too. But what does that mean exactly? Well, every person on the planet interacts with their environment through their senses. However, some people's brains interpret these sensory signals differently, making them overly sensitive or under sensitive to certain stimuli like light, sound, touch, smell, taste, and even movement.


How It Manifests:

Jane, a successful businesswoman, often avoids social gatherings. It's not that she's antisocial, rather, the sensory overload of chattering voices, background music, and bustling activity is overwhelming. Then there's Tom, who can't bear the tag on his shirt or the seam on his socks; it feels like sandpaper against his skin. And don't forget Mary, who feels dizzy every time she goes in the lift. Or Denzel who bumps into the doorways at work or spills the milk when getting coffee for his colleagues. All these adults have sensory processing issues, but each one experiences them differently.

What Causes It:

The exact cause of sensory processing issues isn't completely understood. However, many experts believe it’s due to the brain’s inability to properly process sensory information. Some adults may have had these issues since childhood, only to realize it later in life, while others might develop them after a traumatic event or injury.


Making Life Manageable:

Living with sensory processing issues as an adult can be challenging, but there are ways to make life more manageable. It all starts with understanding your unique sensory profile - your unique sensory thumbprint. This involves recognizing what overstimulates you, what feels calming, and what you would like to be able do better than how you currently manage. With this knowledge, you can devise strategies to navigate through life.


For Jane, it might mean choosing quieter, less crowded settings for socializing. Tom might need to look for tagless clothing and seamless socks. Mary, on the other hand, might have to take the stairs when possible or close her eyes while riding an elevator.

Seeking Help:

If you suspect that you're struggling with sensory processing issues, don't hesitate to seek help. Occupational therapists, like myself, are equipped with the expertise to guide you through understanding your unique sensory needs and devising a personalized plan to manage them. We use a range of interventions, from sensory diets (engaging in activities that help regulate your sensory system), to treating your senses, to recommending modifications in your environment. Go to www.annelaurejackson.com to book a call to chat further.

A Final Word:

Remember, it’s okay to do what’s best for you. If you need to take a step back from a crowded room, choose comfortable clothing over stylish, or alter your routine to avoid specific sensory triggers, that's perfectly okay. The key is to understand your unique sensory needs and honor them as you go about your day-to-day life. So, embrace your sensory uniqueness and remember, you are not alone.


The journey of understanding and managing sensory processing issues as an adult can be overwhelming. Still, with the right guidance and self-awareness, it's entirely possible to lead a fulfilling and balanced life. After all, it's our quirks that make us human. Don't shy away from seeking help and make your comfort a priority. You've got this!


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