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14 People With Sensory Processing Disorder Describe What It Feels Like

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Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into “appropriate” responses, according to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation. A person with SPD may find it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks.

We asked people who live with SPD to share how they describe the condition to those who are unfamiliar with it or may not understand how they experience the world.

This is what they had to say:

1. “It’s like having the worst hangover you can imagine. The rustle of newspaper can make your ears buzz the same way they would if you were listening to really loud music. People talking can make you cringe because it sounds so loud. Sunlight can literally feel like you are blinded. At my worst, I cannot tolerate any light. It’s like your brain is going to explode because it can’t handle the stimulation. It’s really scary, upsetting and can make one very anxious.” — Hay Green


2. “It’s the tactile version of nails scratching on a board. [It] sets your teeth on edge, and whatever it is you touched you can still feel on your skin for hours like a sticky goo.” — Jessica Gray


3. “Suddenly everything is too loud, too bright, too much, and you just want to run to a dark, quiet corner to curl up in for hours.” — Sarah Whiting

4. “At its worst it feels as if you’re in a loud night club with strobe lights and 20 people are vying for your attention. They’re yelling, screaming, pulling at you, and your skin is raw and your mind is raw and it just keeps getting louder and faster until you feels like your brain is going to burst and you might go mad if you don’t escape.” — Sarah Emery Bradley


5. “All of the sensory input your mind normally tunes out can start to overwhelm your conscious mind. It’s like when you become aware of your blinking and notice every blink for a few seconds, but more extreme. Trying to push past the hyper-awareness of every noise and touch will take away any amount of patience and attention you had for what you were doing. It makes it very hard to interact ‘normally’ because you are so caught up in your own head.” — Elizabeth Engel

6. “Sudden, loud noises hurt me. Also, lots of chatter (like at parties or in the staff room) feel like jelly fish stings.” — Linda Yuill

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7. “[It’s like] living life on carnival row at a state fair.” — Dannette Funk

8. “It’s the violence of stuffing colors and lights into the head as well as violently shaking the body with sounds nonstop.” — Lee Laalaa


9. “In an overstimulating environment you feel like you just want to burst and run around screaming. I just want to touch everything or do something with my hands over and over to distract me” — Gianna Winters

10. “It’s like having a migraine that never ends.” — Ella Schwartzenberger


11. “[It’s] like there are a million and one things going on all at once and no way to stop it.” — Randi Rose

12. “It feels like someone else took control of your body.” — Casey Kolb

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13. “It’s like everything is amplified and I can’t hit the pause or stop button.” — Emilyanne Wachter

14. “It’s like everything is louder, brighter, smellier, like you’re so drunk your balance is off, and you don’t know where you end and the rest of the world begins. Everything comes at you all at once, and it all jams up and you can’t do anything.” — Vanessa Blevins

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If you have sensory processing disorder, how would you explain what it feels like to someone who is unfamiliar? Let us know in the comments below.

Related: 21 People Describe What Sensory Overload Feels Like

Originally published: February 25, 2016
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