Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals across the lifespan, impacting their ability to sustain attention, regulate impulses, and manage hyperactivity. While these core symptoms are well-documented, another aspect of ADHD that often goes under-appreciated is hypersensitivity.
Hypersensitivity refers to an exaggerated response to stimuli, and it can manifest in various sensory domains, including sight, sound, touch, and even emotions. In this blog post, we'll explore the often-overlooked connection between ADHD and hypersensitivity, shedding light on how individuals with ADHD navigate a world that may seem overwhelming due to heightened sensitivities.
Understanding Hypersensitivity in ADHD:
Hypersensitivity is not exclusive to ADHD, but it is a prevalent trait among individuals with this condition. Research suggests that the brains of people with ADHD may process sensory information differently, leading to an increased sensitivity to stimuli. This heightened reactivity can impact various aspects of daily life, contributing to challenges in social interactions, work environments, and educational settings.
Individuals with ADHD may experience sensory overload more frequently than their neurotypical counterparts. Everyday stimuli such as bright lights, loud noises, or strong odours can be overwhelming, leading to increased stress levels and a decreased ability to focus. This can be particularly challenging in environments that are inherently stimulating, such as classrooms, open-plan offices or crowded public spaces.
Hypersensitivity extends beyond the physical senses to include emotional sensitivity. Individuals with ADHD may react more intensely to emotional cues, experiencing heightened responses to stress, criticism, or even positive stimuli. This emotional hypersensitivity can contribute to mood swings, difficulty in emotional regulation, and challenges in forming and maintaining relationships.
It is a common trait that people who have ADHD tend to have hypersensitive hearing, where they are hearing down to -10dB. This will make being in certain situations overwhelming for them e.g. classrooms, shopping malls and open plan offices.
Some individuals with ADHD may have heightened sensitivities to touch and texture. This can impact their clothing choices, as certain fabrics may be irritating, or their response to physical contact, as they may be more sensitive to hugs or handshakes. Understanding and respecting these sensitivities is crucial for creating supportive environments.
How to tune out the hypersensitivities:
A programme of Neuro-develomental exercises:
The presence of retained primitive reflexes can have an impact on how sensitive a
person may be. The Moro reflex, also known as ‘The anxiety reflex’ can play a large
part in how a person may become overwhelmed. By implementing a programme of
Neuro-developmental exercises these reflexes can be addressed.
It is possible to reduce hypersensitive hearing by a programme of auditory training.
This is a 10 day programme which, through stimulation of the acoustic reflex in the inner
Ear, can create change to the way a person hears.
Recognizing and addressing hypersensitivity in individuals with ADHD is essential for their well-being. Here are some strategies that can be helpful:
Providing opportunities for sensory breaks can help individuals with ADHD manage their sensitivities. Creating quiet spaces or allowing short breaks during overwhelming situations can be beneficial.
Making simple modifications to the environment, such as using noise-canceling headphones, adjusting lighting, or providing fidget tools, can create a more comfortable setting for individuals with ADHD.
Emotional Regulation Techniques:
Teaching and practicing emotional regulation techniques, such as mindfulness and deep breathing exercises, can help individuals with ADHD manage their emotional sensitivities.
While ADHD is primarily characterized by difficulties in attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity, hypersensitivity is a significant aspect that deserves attention. Understanding the interplay between ADHD and hypersensitivity can foster empathy and inform strategies to create more supportive and inclusive environments for individuals with ADHD.