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What My Life Is Like as an Adult With Sensory Processing Disorder

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How does sensory processing disorder look for a 26-year-old female? It can look different for every single person, regardless of age or gender. For me, it interacts with many other mental health conditions, making the picture more complicated. So, today I will not be telling you the story of young adults with SPD, but rather my story with my recently diagnosed SPD.

My “symptoms” range from hyper-sensitivity and sensation avoidance, to hypo-sensitivity and sensation seeking. I avoid the feeling of sand and grass, and yet I crave the feeling of water and dirt. I can’t focus with background sound, and yet when I watch TV, I need it loud. I’m scared of needles and getting my blood drawn, and yet I love the sensation of getting a tattoo. I get overwhelmed in the grocery store from sights and sounds. I also gag at the dentist, brushing my teeth, or sometimes when eating certain textured foods.

I fidget in my seat and need to get up often at work, and yet when I walk I run into walls and trip over my own feet. Sometimes, I feel anxious about loud sounds and overwhelmed by crowds. I also pick at my skin, nails and hair. I chew on my shirt, smell my hand, and touch everything in stores. Shirt tags are often itchy and uncomfortable, and I have to wear socks (going barefoot is uncomfortable). I sleep with a 25-pound weighted blanket, as well as several other fuzzy blankets. I get disgusted by chewing gum or even eating at times. Being physically intimate with another person is hard for me too — I’ll find myself grossed out by the sensations that come along with it.

Along with these symptoms, I also find I struggle with emotion regulation, auditory processing, attention, impulsivity, directions and spatial awareness, insomnia and hypersomnia — among other mental health conditions. I find that being inside my brain and body is like being on a roller coaster. I only recently discovered that I may have sensory processing disorder, including traits I have had since childhood.

However, along with these symptoms, I also display strong empathy, superior reading and writing skills (according to an IQ test), and a love of learning, even though it isn’t always easy. I want others to know that learning you have SPD is actually a blessing, rather than a curse. The challenges that are intrinsic to sensory processing disorder are not easy, but being wired “differently” can also be advantageous at times. I write, I make art, I learn, I help others… it’s part of me, just one 26-year-old with sensory processing disorder.

Getty image by Melpomenem.

Originally published: November 10, 2020
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