Sensory Issues: When Things are Too Loud, Too Scratchy...and more

Do you have sensory issues? A surprising number of people with ADHD also suffer from hypersensitivity and sensory issues. What bothers you? Have you found ways to work around them?

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I have a problem with high pitched noises and low bass noises. I can't do anything about it other than try to remove myself from the sound.

Certain fabrics annoy me, so I am very particular about the type of fabric used in the clothing I buy.
One thing I've found really helpful (and I just started doing this a couple of months ago & don't know why it didn't occur to me to do it sooner) is use earplugs in the house. There are times when the noises don't bother me at all, and times when every little thing gets on my nerves. Kids, dogs, TV, husband, appliances - then I have to vacuum...ugh. The earplugs don't block ALL the sound but they muffle it a LOT and make the sounds bearable without totally blocking out the real important stuff (like blood curdling screams from the kids). Also sometimes I will listen to music on my iPod when things get too much. I use the rubber earbuds that fit totally into your ear and block out some of the outside noises almost like earplugs.
Sherra Scott said:
I was diagnosed ADHD (inattentive & hyperactive) and started meds this past November. I immediately began researching after my diagnosis and literally started crying because everything finally started to make sense! My short term memory issues, procrastination, daydreaming, incomplete projects, inability to focus on most tasks while yet hyper-focusing on others, food texture issues, annoyance with certain noises, fidgeting, disorganization, and more all finally had a REASON...they weren't all unrelated "quirks" and "problems", they were all related to one issue!. . . . . . . . . . My sensory issues are relatively mild compared to many who have posted here. I HAVE to have some type of white noise to sleep well. I need a fan, window a/c or other steady "white noise" at night. It also probably explains why I am able to sleep so well when it's raining...I LOVE the sound of the rain. It's always been very relaxing to me. Since I got an iPod Touch a few months ago, I've been using a white noise app at night. Oddly, the fan noise on the app annoys me even though a fan in real life does not. Almost every noise in the app annoys me...except the crickets. I absolutely love the sound of the crickets. My husband likes to fall asleep with the radio on. Unless I'm extremely tired I can not fall asleep with the radio on - especially if it's low. My mind focuses so much on the words of the songs I can't "shut down". I either have to wait until the sleep timer shuts the radio off after an hour or get up and walk to his side of the bed and turn off the radio after he's fallen asleep. Normally I will then fall asleep within a couple of minutes after shutting off the radio. Oddly, it doesn't bother me as much if the radio is at a louder level.
The sounds of people chewing drives me bonkers. And smacking, ugh, that's almost unbearable. Unfortunately, my husband and oldest daughter have very small lips, which I think contributes to them smacking more than the average person since there's less of what I call "lip tissue" to keep their mouths closed when they chew. I will often take my plate and eat in the living room rather than sit at the table with them because I simply cannot stand the sounds they make when they chew. I normally even hear them when I'm sitting in the living room, but I can usually focus my attention on the TV to help drown out their eating noises.

Other sounds that drive me bonkers are dripping water and dogs licking.

My husband likes to listen to loud music, but I can't stand it much above normal listening level - particularly if I am doing ANYTHING that requires any sort of thought. I'm fine with it being a little loud in the mornings while I'm showering/putting on makeup/fixing hair/getting dressed, but once the "mindless, auto-pilot" part of my day is over, forget it...the music/TV has got to be turned down...a lot.

I've never felt comfortable in "frilly" clothes - I always said they were "itchy". I could not wear flip-flops until the past couple of years because I simply could not stand having anything between my toes. I also have a sock issue. I don't like my socks too loose or too tight (my toes HAVE to be able to wiggle freely) and can not stand it when there is a wrinkle or misaligned toe seam. I will stop what I'm doing, no matter where I am, and take my shoe off and fix the offending sock or stocking. And I can feel a hair - a single hair - in my sock. That's almost WORSE than any of the other issues with my socks. A single stray hair that's somehow found it's way from my hair/brush/etc. into my sock (or any other article of clothing for that matter). Even in areas of my body where hair grows naturally I can feel a single hair that doesn't belong. If I'm not home I have to immediately find the nearest private area and dig out the hair from my shirt/bra/pants/underwear/etc. When I'm wearing glasses of any kind I can not stand to have hair "under" the arm or ear piece.

After reading everyone else's responses I realized that my "normal" wardrobe also consists of oversized t-shirts/sweatshirts, sweat pants, pajama pants and loose shorts. (I run my business from my home, so I VERY RARELY have to "dress" anymore.) I absolutely hated getting "dressed" for work when I worked in the "real world", except the job I had once as the office manager at a doctor's office...when they offered me the option of wearing "nice" scrubs like everyone else in the office instead of "business clothes" I jumped at the chance! (Now I know WHY I enjoyed that so much - other than not having to think about what I was going to wear to work. Hmm...should I wear the scrubs or the scrubs today? I think I'll wear the scrubs.)

I've always been weird about food textures too. I would not eat jello for a long time when I was a kid because it was jiggly. I don't eat beans or peas of any kind (except green beans) because they are kind of squishy when you bite into them. I don't like the texture of smell of fish or any kind of seafood. I will, however, eat frozen fish sticks (cooked) if I've got plenty of ketchup - probably because the fish is minced up so much and covered with so much breading that it really doesn't even resemble real fish. And I will only eat eggs that are what I call scrambled well and cooked hard (not counting eggs that are used in baking, etc.).

It's nice to know there is an actual reason behind it!

SUZ SAID:. . . .WOW-THIS IS SO SURREAL! LIKE A LOT OF OTHERS, I HAVE SENSORY ISSUES WHEN IT COMES TO CLOTHING TEXTURES, SEAMS ETC. I HAVE A VERY "KEEN" SENSE OF SMELL. MY ATTENTION TO VISUAL ASPECTS ARE IMPECCABLE! I NOTICE EVERY LITTLE DETAIL. . .I COULD FIND THAT NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK! SOMETIMES I JUST WANT TO SHUT MY EYES SO THAT MY BRAIN CAN STOP NOTICING EVERY LITTLE THING AROUND ME. CLUTTER MAKES ME ANXIOUS. I HEAR EVERYTHING AROUND ME(I CANNOT FILTER OUT EXTERNAL STIMULI) ie.DOGS BARKING, REFRIGERATOR RUNNING, WATER DRIPPING AND OF COURSE ALL THE ALARMS AND BEEPS YOU GET FROM WORKING IN A HOSPITAL. I HAVE FOUND THAT SLEEPING WITH A FAN ON HELPS TREMENDOUSLY. . .BUT THEN I SOMETIMES SLEEP THROUGH THE ALARM! CUMULATIVE NOISE IRRITATES ME AND MAKES ME ANXIOUS. BUT THE STRANGE THING IS THAT I LOVE LOUD MUSIC. . .THE LOUDER-THE BETTER! AND I WANT TO HAVE MUSIC PLAYING 24-7! PROBABLY THE MOST EXTREME ISSUE I HAVE WITH SENSORY IS THAT I CAN FEEL EVERY INDIVIDUAL PIECE OF HAIR ON MY HEAD. IF ANY HAIR "POPS" OUT OF PLACE, I FEEL IT. I HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH TRICHOTILLOMANIA(HAIR-PULLING) I WAS TOLD THAT IT IS SOMEHOW RELATED TO O.C.D.( WHICH I ALSO HAVE), BUT WONDER IF IT HAS MORE TO DO WITH MY ADHD /SENSORY ISSUES. ALTHOUGH ALL OF THESE ISSUE CAN MAKE LIFE A LITTLE MORE CHALLENGING, I AM ACTUALLY HAPPY TO HAVE ADHD!. I KNOW IT SOUNDS CRAZY, BUT I THINK THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OUTWEIGH THE NEGATIVE ONES. ADHD IS HOW I AM MADE AND I WOULDN'T BE "ME" WITHOUT IT. AND I HAVE "LEARNED" TO LIKE ME! I AM SO GLAD THAT I JOINED THIS WEB SITE AND HAVE ENJOYED READING ABOUT OTHERS WITH SIMILAR ISSUES. CAN'T WAIT TO INTERACT SOME MORE. THANX!!!
I feel like I have some sensory issues, but I notice it's worse when I'm actually getting things accomplished. Almost like I'm trying super hard to fight the distractions but there's just this HORRIBLE noise that will NOT go away! The noises that bother me most are mostly sounds people might make with their mouth - smacking food, loud chewing of gum, grunting noises when people eat. LOL....I suppose mostly to do with food as well! I also hate the way certain textures feel. When I get out of the shower or wash my hands and then touch a towel....it drives me CRAZY...I have to put lotion on before I can touch a towel. I hate for my feet to touch the sheets on my bed without lotion. I can't even describe the way cotton feels to me when I don't have recently moisturized skin. I have tried explaining it to people who look at me strange when they see me frantically searching for my lotion and they just don't get it. And I have not liked that stupid seam on the toes of socks since I was a kid!! And my 4yr old Son doesn't like it either!

; ) I always feel like such a freak when I tell people about these things that annoy me!!!
One more thing....I CANNOT stand when people drive with their rap music so loud that I can hear the beat. Sorry....I just HATE IT!!! I call it the, "boom boomin" I have called the cops on so many neighbors for playing loud music at night when I'm trying to sleep!!! *sigh* I just never realized why I was like that!!!

Stephanie Schornick said:
I feel like I have some sensory issues, but I notice it's worse when I'm actually getting things accomplished. Almost like I'm trying super hard to fight the distractions but there's just this HORRIBLE noise that will NOT go away! The noises that bother me most are mostly sounds people might make with their mouth - smacking food, loud chewing of gum, grunting noises when people eat. LOL....I suppose mostly to do with food as well! I also hate the way certain textures feel. When I get out of the shower or wash my hands and then touch a towel....it drives me CRAZY...I have to put lotion on before I can touch a towel. I hate for my feet to touch the sheets on my bed without lotion. I can't even describe the way cotton feels to me when I don't have recently moisturized skin. I have tried explaining it to people who look at me strange when they see me frantically searching for my lotion and they just don't get it. And I have not liked that stupid seam on the toes of socks since I was a kid!! And my 4yr old Son doesn't like it either!

; ) I always feel like such a freak when I tell people about these things that annoy me!!!
Glad to know I'm not the only one:  dogs/cats licking themselves, turtlenecks make me feel like I'm choking, long sleeve shirts are annoying I have to push the sleeves up, smacking good, have to turn off radio when I am driving if I am driving somewhere new, can't stand to have someone sit on the edge of the bed when I am in it because it pulls the blanket down tight and I feel trapped, when I eat I drag the tines of the forks along the bottom of my top front teeth, I have to smell everything before I drink or eat it, ( the last two were brought to my attention by my husband when we were dating, I hate wearing shoes, my hubby laughs but I swear my feet regulate my body temperature if they are hot then I am hot, I habe a heightened sense of smell and perfumes, body sprays and lotions nauseated me as does body odor, the sound of teeth grinding will wake me from a dead sleep...that is all I can think of off the top of my head
HI All four of my children have ADHD . I was wondering if any one else did this? They all sucked on there sleave or neck of shirt. my daughter also chews her hair, bits her nails and chews he lips. thanks
I do have sensory issues with my ADHD and what bugs me most is the noise a bathroom fan makes. It cuts me in half sometimes. I have been through listening program but it still is not better. I just do not use the fan. My husband needs to sleep with a fan on at night and that also bothers me but I find if I fall asleep before he turns the fan on it does not bother me. I also bought a different fan and that had a different sound. It is odd that my 3 kids all have either autism or ADHD with sensory issues and we all have different things that just drive us crazy. We just all learn to respect each others needs. For my son with autism we notice he starts to verbal stim when the noise bothers him so that is our cue to figure out how to help him.
When we were unraveling my son's anxiety/attention issues in early elementary school (3rd grade-5th grade) we addressed his sensory issues with nutrition tweaks (multi-vitamin, fish oils, keeping his glycemic index from spiking by including a protein with every carbohydrate snack, eliminating artificial food colors) AND occupational therapy.

He was diagnosed "tactile defensive" - shrinking from loud noises, scratchy tags, distracted by a toe tapping his chair,etc. His OT included a therapy called "brushing." Five times a day, I took a soft plastic brush, the type you use on an infant's scalp for cradle cap, and ran it softly but firmly down his arms, then legs and back. We also did "joint compressions" - a technique better explained and taught by an OT. All in all, it took about 10-15 minutes a the most to complete this routine. We arranged it so that I could do the therapy once during the school day in a private space at recess. I think we went 6 weeks on this schedule, and two of those weeks were over winter break. My son was old enough to be able to evaluate and communicate the difference it made for him. He felt that it helped him.

We also increased our hug output dramatically - made sure he got to wrestle with dad and his brother often. Another game we played was "blanket burrito" - OTs have weighted blankets for this - but we simple rolled him in a big blanket. The pressure is calming and the silliness and giggles that ensue are a great anxiety reducer.

He did not like soccer in kindergarten ("I don't like people bumping into me") so we didn't push it. We signed him up for tae kwon do in 3rd grade - I had to escort him onto the mat for his first class - (anxiety!)- and 45 minutes later he bounced back with a HUGE smile. We kept up with it until high school. It was a financial strain, but worth it. We also tried gymnastics - too many girls, and we found the all-boy program too late in the game ( 7th grade), but he did enjoy trampoline. Now in high school, he runs cross country, lift weights, and played rugby.

The bottom line for us was to encourage VIGOROUS exercise. Sweat inducing, heavy breathing, muscle taxing exercise. It still is the magic that helps him relax, focus and feel better about himself and connect with others.

I know it helps me manage my ADHD...when I can stop procrastinating and get to the gym or out the door to run. I played a fall sport in college, and always did better that semester. (the dropped classes and F's we always in the spring ;) At the time, I thought it was because of the external structure the practice/game schedule gave me, but in retrospect, I think it had more to do with the calming effect of the chemicals released during exercise.
Sometimes that behavior helps people focus. Some schools let kids with ADHD chew gum, instead of their shirts, fingernails, etc. or give the children "fidgets" - small objects to hold and fiddle with while trying to attend in class. Try letting them have some silly putty to hold and knead, or a small squishy ball or a small toy or stuffed animal.

Smokeydragonlady said:
HI All four of my children have ADHD . I was wondering if any one else did this? They all sucked on there sleave or neck of shirt. my daughter also chews her hair, bits her nails and chews he lips. thanks
Oh, yes I suffer from hypersensitivity and sensory issues!!!! It is kind of funny as I am deaf in my left ear. But I am so sensitive to sensory issues!!!! like the place I moved to it is way to LOUD, it isn't the neighbors, but the traffic outside, I am living on a mountain, so are so many others and I am living between two busy roads!!! Way to much NOISE!!! one of my two dogs dose not like it either, he keeps on barking, where we lived before was very quiet. I lost my job 6 months ago and have not found work yet, so my sister lived three hours away and I moved closer to her in hopes of finding work (her idea) but anyway, she is paying the rent, so I am not going to kick a gift horse in the mouth, as I love her and how she is helping me out till I do find employment. Have never been out of work this long before. I hate it. But yes, I am major hypersensitive and sensory issues. I have noticed that I am more hypersensitive around the 'full moon' (yes I worked in healthcare and yes, some people full moon dose effect).
My son's issues are so bad I actually had to write in his IEP for fidget toys and that he could chew gum in class. I taught the teachers about the fight or flight response and to allow him to remove himself from the room when necessary. When he knew he could do that he did not need to do it as often. When he felt like a caged animal that was when the problems happened. I understand there is now research that shows that chewing gum can help people focus as well as that movement does as well. I will be sure to share those articles with teachers if the need arises. One the first day, one school year the teacher told my son to stop moving....at that time that was like telling him not to breathe. I made sure to educate the teachers in a nice way. Dr. Hallowell has a list of like 50 or 100 tips for classroom teachers and it is wonderful. I believe it is on his website. I may have it on my computer here..let me know if you would like me to past it here so you can share it with the teachers you run into. If you go to his site check out the alternative treatments 2 of them really help with sensory issues.

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