Turtlenecks & Wool: Yea or Nay?


Are YOU “sensory defensive”
Do YOUR little quirks & preferences (or those of a loved one)
have a brain-based explanation?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Comorbidities Series

Sensory sensitivities

Regular readers already know of my intense disregard for summer. I can’t deal with heat.  Not only am I extremely uncomfortable, practically on the verge of passing out from heatstroke, I seem to lose the ability to think.  My brain wilts.

As October is a week old already – Indian Summer begone! – I am practically giddy as I begin to dig out my woolly turtleneck sweaters and the boots last seen before the weather turned beastly hot.

I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of the day when I can put away ALL my summer clothes and start wearing coats and gloves, swaddling my neck in long wool scarves – venturing out once again, in real clothes designed for grown-up bodies!

Seriously, have you ever really looked at summer clothing?

  • Limp and tattered rags of sweat-drenched cotton passing for tops;
  • Belly-button baring pants, whacked off at fanny level;
  • And shoes that are barely more than soles with straps exposing far too many toes in serious need of some grooming attention.

On the other hand . . .

More than a few people I know are practically in mourning, dreading the coming of the “bone-chilling” season that, for them, has absolutely nothing to recommend it.

  • They hate wearing shoes at all, and boots make them feel like a Budweiser Clydesdale.
  • They can barely breath in turtlenecks and neck scarves.
  • Wool makes them scratch themselves practically bloody.

You might be tempted to believe that we have little in common – but you’d be WRONG.  We are each members of the Sensory Defensive club – at the far ends of the spectrum: heat, for me, and cold for them.

But sensory defensiveness is not confined to temperature.
It can show up in any number of arenas, including:
sound, sight, touch, smell and taste —
as well as vestibular/proprioceptive (position, balance & movement)

What most people don’t understand is that these sensory sensitivities are usually the result of “faulty brain-wiring” — a sensory integration issue.

In addition to many individuals born with ADD, anywhere along the autistic-spectrum, or other individuals with attentional challenges, sensory sensitivities can also be a consequence of brain damage [TBI/ABI], and often accompanies PTSD.

Even some professionals who work with PTSD misunderstand the loud noise/startle response. It may well have a psychologically-based component that triggers flashbacks but, at base, it’s frequently a neurological issue. The sensory integration pathways have often been scrambled and must be healed or reconstructed.

But back to my friends and our clothing preferences

In addition to our shared inability to tolerate certain temperatures (comfortably, or at all), some of my summer-loving buddies seem to have an additional issue to contend with: tactile defensiveness – and that is what this particular article is going to address.

Read more of this post

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