Touch sensitivity, also known as tactile sensitivity, describes both too much and too little sensation to touch – by that I mean too much or too little compared with the majority of people. If we have too much sensitivity – we are hypersensitive to touch and if we have too little we are hyposensitive to touch.

Touch sensitivity is not exclusive to neurodivergent people but it is incredibly common for us. We can be hypersensitive to some forms of touch and hyposensitive to others. Touch is one of our eight major senses and our senses work in conjunction with each other, so touch sensitivity is closely related to pain sensitivity and sensitivity to heat and cold, for instance.

Signs of touch sensitivity may include some of these, all of these, and are not limited to the following:

Hypersensitive examples – sensory avoidant:

  • Feeling alarmed, even to the point of screaming, if someone even lightly touches us, or hugs us. Particularly if this gesture is unexpected, or from a stranger.
  • Feeling nothing short of repulsion when required to engage in physical affection, sometimes even with those we love.
  • Being so distracted by a sensation on our skin, that we’re unable to focus on the task in hand.
  •  Clothing care labels – oh the torture!
  • Only being able to tolerate certain fabrics against our skin – commonly very soft fabrics.
  • Feeling repulsed by certain textures – velvet, suede, wool, to name but a few.
  • Itchy skin that cannot be ignored.
  • Feeling shock and genuine pain – to the point of calling out – when experiencing touch sensations that others barely seem to feel, such as having an injection or hair plucking.

Hyposensitive examples – sensory seeking:

  • Needing really intense hugs or pressure in order to feel any sense of relief.
  • Sensory seeking behaviours that can lead to self-harming such as head banging, cutting and biting.
  • A high pain tolerance.
  • Enjoying very textured surfaces, scratchy fabrics, foods, chewelry.
  • Baffling bruising due to colliding with doorways, tables etc and not having been aware of it.
  • A high tolerance for heat, including hot water and sun exposure.

For broader information on sensory sensitivity please click here to return to the general page on hypersensitivity and here to return to the post on hyposensitivity.