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How to Cope as an Adult with Sensory Processing Disorder

By Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, Founder & CEO of SleepPhones®

Many adults today struggle with sensory processing disorder.

Also known as sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder that occurs when the brain does not properly receive and respond to sensory information.

Sensory issues in adults with this condition involve being overly (or underly) sensitive to their environment. They may find normal sounds unbearably loud or find it impossible to wear certain kinds of clothes. Those who are underly sensitive may not react when touching something extremely hot or extremely cold. Some experts liken SPD to a "traffic jam" in the brain that prevents inputs from correctly receiving information.

SPD can often be diagnosed very early on. Babies with SPD are typically anxious and fussy; as they grow older, they may frequently throw tantrums and suffer meltdowns. Only a medical professional can tell if this kind of behavior could be SPD.

SPD in adults manifests in many different ways. Adults with sensory issues may find it hard to coordinate themselves and will then end up bumping into things. They may also find it challenging to interact with others.

Adults with sensory issues are often on the autism spectrum disorder. Like people on the autism spectrum, people with SPD also fall along a spectrum from mild to severe.

No one knows exactly what causes SPD, though studies suggest it is inherited. Prenatal conditions, a difficult birth, and other environmental factors may also play a role.

How to Cope with Sensory Processing Disorder

Fortunately, there are treatments available to help SPD in adults.

The first is working with an occupational therapist who can help manage SPD. Some of the exercises they may try include physical therapy, visual therapy, listening therapy, and speech and language therapy. Psychotherapy may also help if an affected person developed anxiety or a mood disorder as a result of suffering from SPD.

Lifestyle changes can also help manage SPD. Creating simple, predictable routines that minimize environmental challenges can ease symptoms. Many adults with SPD find that it helps to break tasks into smaller steps instead of tackling everything at once. Conversely, adults with SPD who underreact to sensory input are encouraged to engage in stimulating activities like running and martial arts.

Reducing input by wearing sunglasses and tag-free clothing and sniffing a sachet when smells become too much can also help. Many adults with sensory issues also find it helpful to have quality headphones that can help regulate ambient noise.

SleepPhones® are the world's most comfortable headphones for sleeping that have helped many adults with SPD. With flat speakers in a soft stretchy headband, many adults with sensory processing disorder find SleepPhones® to be the perfect headphones to wear since they aren't bulky or have uncomfortable earbuds. Learn more below!

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