Sensory Processing Disorder: Referral Corner

Does the sound of fingernails on a blackboard make you shudder? Imagine if other experiences gave you the same feeling – bright lights, a scratchy shirt tag, the feeling of a fan blowing on your face. For those with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPDs), everyday sensations can be difficult to manage. Individuals with an SPD might have trouble understanding, processing and reacting to information received from their senses. These individuals often feel their senses are unreliable or inconsistent, making basic tasks such as dressing and walking difficult. SPDs can make daily organization challenging, and they can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

Recent emphasis on diagnosis in childhood has raised the profile of sensory integration issues within parenting communities. It stands to reason that children with SPDs grow into adults with SPDs. But when children are not diagnosed, and do not follow protocols that include occupational therapy, they often reach adulthood without a definition for their struggles. Lacking effective coping strategies, they may find themselves in a counselor’s office facing depression, anxiety, addiction or other complicating conditions. Experts agree that SPDs can present more as a mental health issue, leading to misdiagnoses ranging from generalized anxiety and phobias to obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. Armed with an understanding of how SPDs present in adult populations, counselors can help these clients find more comfortable ways of living.

Information excerpted from “Don’t Touch Me,” in Counseling Today magazine, March 29, 2011.