The mysterious business of hypersensitivity and its relationship with autism and ADHD. Let’s start by explaining that this is not a reference to us being ‘overly sensitive’. We’re not attention seeking, we’re not ‘just being difficult’, we’re not ‘making a fuss’. Hypersensitivity is not a choice we make – who on earth would? Hypersensitivity is a vast area on its own. So this is a general information page about it and I will direct you to signs of some of the more common hypersensitivities via glossary links.

Some examples:

Do you have to sweep out your bed sheet every night, and probably get out and do it again, because that one tiny micro-crumb feels like you’re trying to sleep on Brighton beach? I mean, that’s quite specific – it may be just me! But this is one small example of touch sensitivity ←click for more examples.

Or maybe you find yourself unable to concentrate on a conversation because the humming of the fridge, in another room, on another floor is intrusive to the point of you wanting to scream? This is an example of sound sensitivity, also known as hyperacusisI seem to have created two separate entries for those – so it’s best to read both, by clicking on the red links.

Do you feel shock and genuine pain – maybe to the point of yelling – when you are given a jab that everyone else in the queue seems hardly to feel? This is an example of pain sensitivity → click here for more on pain sensitivity.

Are there certain foods that turn your stomach in utter revulsion when you smell them, irrespective of what they may taste like (not that you ever want to find out!)? → click here for more on smell sensitivity

 

Do fluorescent lights give you migraines, do you feel more comfortable in sunglasses, even indoors? → click here for more on light sensitivity.

Do you find yourself utterly lethargic, unable to concentrate or function properly the moment the UK temperatures go above the average, or when you visit a steam room, or a heated greenhouse? Do you fling open the windows when all around you are shaking with cold? Conversely, do you wear winter clothes all year round, experience pain in your ears if you don’t wear a hat in the wind, do you have your heating cranked up to the max.? → click here for more on temperature sensitivity.

 

Hypersensitivity can occur in any, some, or all sensations that involve our senses. Two other important ones that you might want to read more on are:

Our body’s unconscious awareness of where we are – known as proprioception ← click here and

Movement sensitivity – known as vestibular sensitivity ← click here.

It’s important to note that it’s very common to experience hypersensitivity – too much sensation – in some areas, and hyposensitivity – a lack of sensitivity – in others. I, for instance, am the ‘Princess and the Pea‘ (my husband’s lighthearted phrasing) at bedtime, because I have to give my side of the bed a complete sweep out because one tiny bit of crumb is too torturous for me to ignore. Conversely, I can’t even smell the flowers in the gardens that are my passion! Why am I tortured by the delighted squeals of kids on another table in a restaurant, to the point of physical pain, but I can’t hear what the person sitting opposite me is saying. That’s the stuff we’re talking about – our brains are flooded with information to that sense and it is so overwhelming it can lead to meltdown if we’re unable to remove ourselves from the situation.

Even more baffling are the varying sensitivities for what you’d imagine is the same sense – another personal example: I have unhealthily hot baths that are very pleasurable but can only be comfortable outside on a warm day if I’m in total shade and utterly still. This is very common for neurodivergents. And whilst I’ve used the Princess analogy jokingly, I cannot emphasise enough that we don’t have a choice in this. We haven’t decided to make life difficult for ourselves – this is our neurology at work. Our brains become overwhelmed with sensation as we are unable to filter out the bits that are not useful to us

Chances are you’ll have a bit of a mixed bag of hypers and hypos, with a sprinkling of nothing spectacular in either direction thrown in.

Here’s a really straightforward article ← about hypersensitivity in its many forms.

As mentioned on the hyperacusis page, it is worth knowing that many of the larger supermarkets in the UK now have fixed periods each week called Quiet Hours – clicking here will give you quiet hours for each supermarket. The tannoy announcements are reduced or stopped, the checkout bleeps are quietened and the lighting is dimmed. Some supermarkets reduce or stop trolley and basket collections during that hour too. The days and times vary, so it’s best to Google your preferred supermarket and ‘quiet hours’ or ‘sensory friendly’ hours. Lidl refers to them as ‘Autism aware hours’. Once again, it would be so helpful if everyone could agree on the same phrase. Whatever they’re called, it’s progress!