Physical and Emotional Hypersensitivity With ADHD

What Are Physical and Emotional Sensitivities Sometimes Associated With ADHD?

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If you or your loved one (your child, spouse, sibling, etc.) have ADHD, do you ever notice that this person seems to be more sensitive to things than others who do not have ADHD? It is not unusual for individuals with ADHD to feel both emotionally hypersensitive and physically hypersensitive to touch, sounds, light, even the tags on clothing.

Emotional Sensitivities

Emotional self-control, particularly as it relates to difficult emotions like frustration, anger, or sadness, can be very challenging for someone with ADHD.

It is painful to experience negative feelings so deeply and have little ability to control your response. What's more, emotional sensitivities can often affect social interactions when others are on the receiving end of these strong emotions.

It may be that difficulties around the ability to inhibit responses feeds into these raw emotional reactions. When a person is impulsive they simply react driven by the intensity of the moment. To be able to delay a response allows a person to separate a bit from the emotions and react in a more objective way. This ability to delay a response is sometimes very difficult for those with ADHD.

It is also possible that because of past experiences and growing up with all the negative labels that can be associated with ADHD, some people with ADHD may simply feel more sensitive to negative statements or complaints or even gentle suggestions from others than a person who did not grow up with ADHD.

Physical Sensitivities

Many people with ADHD are also hypersensitive to their physical surroundings. Sounds as subtle as the humming of the air conditioning or lights from a flickering candle or the scratching from a tag on a shirt can become major distractions. When a person is unable to filter and inhibit their responses to incoming stimuli – like sights and sounds – everything becomes a distraction.

Instead of having problems with inattention, this person may pay attention to everything whether it is relevant or not. This can be very disorienting.

Difficulties integrating sensory input may also contribute to physical sensitivities. A simple pat on the shoulder from a caring teacher may feel irritating to some students with ADHD. As a result, the reaction creates problems for this child and confusion from the teacher. For adults with ADHD, these sensitivities around touch and sensory stimulation can also create quite a few problems in intimate relationships.

Awareness and understanding of these sensitivities that can sometimes be associated with ADHD is a good first step in getting a better handle on them. If these issues are present in your life talk with your doctor and, together, develop strategies for managing these sensitivities in your daily life.

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