Sensory defensiveness is the result of aversive or defensive reactions to what most people consider non-irritating sensory stimuli. Due to a low threshold/low tolerance the brain over-responds. It often leads to tension, anxiety, avoidance, stress, anger and even violence. Basic sensations have the potential to put the brain in “high-alert”, which coincides with a stress response.
Degrees of sensory defensiveness can be mild, moderate or severe.
Defensiveness can be evident in one or more sensory system. I.e. if someone is auditory defensive, sounds and noise will potentially overload the brain.
Although largely unrecognized, sensory defensiveness is not uncommon.
USA studies showed that 15% of normal adults have a nervous system that is overly sensitive to sensation. They potentially become irritable, distracted as their brains keep on going into fight/flight responses. Sensory irritations can be as simple as:
* Someone opening a bag of chips
* The odor of a new car
* The flashing pointer on a pc screen
* Hum of an air conditioner
* Feeling of a label in clothing
The following “labels” can potentially indicate a sensory defensive person….difficult, picky, perfectionist, anti-social, demanding, fussy, finicky, fastidious…
Understanding these behaviours is the key in order to implement the appropriate strategies.
A South African pilot study of 70 people who completed the Adult sensory profile indicated the following:
* 27% had mild to moderate sensitivity
* 17% had severe sensitivity (sensory defensive)
* Although forming an active part of the workforce the above group of people complained of loss in concentration, increased stress and reduced performance.
COACHING for sensory defensive individuals include:
* Identify sensory profiles
* Identify sensory stressors
* Implement self regulation strategies
* Implement sensory diets
* Create the best-fit environments in the workplace