How I Found Hope as an Adult With Sensory Processing Disorder

The day I found out about sensory processing disorder (SPD) was the day my life changed for the better. I had been living with anxiety for almost my entire life, and had simply accepted the fact that my panic was always going to be a part of me. This disorder gave me hope, as odd as that sounds.

I had read about it before but I just brushed off the idea that I could be dealing with it based upon the fact that I didn’t think my therapist would agree. I felt, if I asked her about it, it may look like I was self-diagnosing, which is a big no-no in the professional field. But I kept coming back to it.

I had only really realized something wasn’t right after I began to attend university. I had worked through most of my childhood trauma and was able to recognize my anxiety triggers. I was doing good in therapy and had been better about rationalizing what was going on in my brain. Before, when I had begun to do better, most of my panic was under control. The day I set foot on campus, I started having anxiety and panic attacks nearly every day. I couldn’t even pinpoint the cause of them.

I’d had enough. My mind went back to SPD. I researched about this disorder all night, and I found a revelation that gave me peace. I was experiencing from sensory overload. It explained my fear of loud noises, food texture and chalk. It explained my inability to truly focus in a crowd, the panic attacks when I walked through campus, and the defeat I felt at the end of the day. The biggest relief was that it gave a reason why I couldn’t hold eye contact with others. This was something elders considered rude, and I wanted to know why I couldn’t just be “normal.”

I told my therapist about my revelation. She seemed to agree. I had just recently been diagnosed with avoidant/Restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and SPD put that into perspective for me. I was unable to eat certain foods, I stressed about making my food and just eating in general. I was afraid of textures and began to stop eating just because it was too much anxiety for me to handle.

Sensory processing disorder was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to make everything make sense. I started noticing what was making me panic. I realized that the noises of students talking, cars driving down the road, the sound of construction equipment, the smell of flowers, the smell of food and my social anxiety all worked together to make my mind shut down. The feelings of defeat and guilt I felt diminished. I knew where to start to help make this better.

Being able to recognize what is an overload for me made the panic easier. When I begin to get overwhelmed, I will focus on the individual noises and smells to help calm myself down. Being diagnosed as an adult is difficult, but it has helped me see that behaviors I had as a child were because of sensory overloads. I would have meltdowns over food and noises. I was called a spoiled or a brat my entire life, but really I was having sensory issues.

So if you struggle with SPD, remember you aren’t alone. Everyone’s SPD looks different and they have different sensory triggers. You are strong, and you can get through this.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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