A lot has been mentioned about Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) recently. For individuals with ADHD, hypersensitivity is not only about emotion. Individuals with ADHD can experience hypersensitivity with all senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste).
According to the National Institute of Health “. . . there a growing knowledge supporting a relationship between ADHD and sensory over-responsivity . . . “
Once sensory hypersensitivity is identified, making accomodating changes, like wearing earplugs, will make life more comfortable.
How does hypersensitivity manifest in each of our senses?
Let’s take the example of going to a concert and dissect it.
Touch: At a concert, we are in a crowd with others where we may get jostled around a bit. We may also be wearing clothes that don’t support hypersensitivity. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes think “cute,” not “comfort.” You’ve probably been there; jeans are a little too tight and heels too high.
- Solution: Think comfort first. Yoga pants, a t-shirt, and flat shoes can be cute and comfortable.
Sight: Wow, talk about visual stimulation! Because an ADHD brain tends to give equal weight to various stimuli, strobing and flashing lights can be uncomfortable.
- Solution: Early on, decide where to focus. If at a concert, maybe concentrate only on the lead singer. Don’t try to take in the whole band, stage, lighting system, crowd, or venue. In addition, you may want to bring some sunglasses along to soften the bright lights.
Hearing: Generally, concerts are really loud, and we can control the volume. Not only can we be overstimulated by assorted noises (singers, instruments, and people around us), the noise may be coming in at an uncomfortable volume.
- Solution: Earplugs. Limiting noise will help reduce distraction (in addition to saving your hearing). My guess is that even with earplugs, you’ll be able to hear the band just fine. The NY Times has some suggestions for the best earplugs for concerts.
Smell: In a large venue like a concert, there is the opportunity for conflicting scents, including food, perfume, and smoke. Unfortunately, we can’t always control the smells around us.
- Solution: I don’t have any personal experience with, and don’t endorse, this product, but “NOSA odor protection is a discreet nose plug that efficiently reduces bad odor without affecting your breathing capacity.”
Taste: According to Lumen Learning, “The senses of taste and smell are related because they use the same types of receptors and are stimulated by molecules in solutions or air.” So, you may not have total control of your hypersensitivity to taste because you may “taste” airborne particulates.
- Solution: Engaging with your favorite gum or throat lozenge may distract from many sensory inputs.
If you are interested in more information about hypersensitivity disorder and ADHD, check out the ADDitude magazine article My Hypersensitivity is Real.
Cindy Jobs, PCAC, ACC
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