Published on 12, July, 2020
If an autistic individual struggles with one of their senses being ‘overly’ sensitive, is it reasonable/common to have another sense be ‘under’ sensitive?
For example, I am very sensitive to noise- to a painful level. This is something, by reading on here, that I know a lot of us struggle with. I also know that others recognise sensitivities in their other senses. I would argue that my sense of smell is pretty sensitive, as is my sense of taste. My vision not so much. I can spot tiny details, but often miss larger things right in front of me. But the sense I really find lacking is that of my ability to detect when I’m cold or have hurt myself. My pain threshold is pretty high as a result. I detest being hot and I also don’t like being touched, except with warning from a select few people, but I really struggle to pick up on when I’ve hurt myself. A few months ago I walked in from a satisfying time in the garage of cleaning, organising and finishing a project, went to talk to my wife who immediately asked what I’d done. She looked a bit concerned, but I didn’t really know what she was worried about until she’d told me. I had a really deep cut on my leg and was bleeding to a reasonable level. I just didn’t feel it or recognise that I’d done it. It wasn’t anything bad, just required a bit of looking after it and now have an oddly shaped scar. But this sort of thing happens quite a lot to me.
It might not be a thing, but it was a question I’ve been wondering about. It would be great to hear your thoughts/ experiences. Perhaps it’s just something linked to me, but equally, I’d be interested to see if other people have comparable instances or to see if it is something linked to autism or not.
Ah thanks for this. The more I speak to people on here, the more I seem to understand about my experiences. I could be pretty hard on myself in the past, so it’s nice to turn here and ask a question instead…
For me interoception, fine motor skils, and spacial self-awareness sucks big time
but gross motor skills and spatial perception is great
I've got better than average smelling and tasting, normal sight, sensitive skin, and lacking hearing (when there is to much noise I can't tell anything)
I can relate to a lot of what you experience. I don't do well in the hot and don't like being touched unless it's from the right people.
I also have a high pain threshold and it takes a lot of pain to really recognise it. I feel like my awareness doesn't work all that well. It's like if I don't drink enough which I struggle with I don't feel it, so I don't feel myself getting dehydrated which is an issue. My sense of smell is the same, I have a great sense of smell but I can never distinguish what's what it's very irritating. I know we differ slightly but I wanted you to know your not alone in this.
I get that with noise as well. When there's too much it gets overwhelming.
myself, i think my pain threshold is fairly low, i believe i am dyspraxic though, and THINK that could be linked to that.
im also a drama king though, so tend to over react to things that didnt even hurt lol, just impulsively blurt out an "OWWWW!" at anything haha.
i suppose pain is still a sense though, seeing how its linked to nerves, like other senses seem to be, so you could be on to something there
Glad you bought up having a high pain threshold, I thought it was just me. I broke my arm as a child and didn’t go to the doctors for a week. I cut three fingers off about 15 years ago, I rapped my hand in a towel and now recognise that I was stimming until the ambulance came, I didn’t know I was autistic then, I remember someone saying,”can’t you sit still?” I go into a zone and don’t feel pain. I’m similar to you with smell, noise and touch. I only go to our village pub as I know how it is inside and what to expect, I hate restaurants as the menus freak me out, the menu seems to be 1 metre square and I’ve only had it for what seems to be 5 seconds before I’m asked to make a choice. I had someone come up from behind me in the pub and put their hands on my shoulders, the poor person thought I was going to hit him. The pub had a special on the menu last week with garlic in it and the smell was awful and people were talking over each other, it’s like get tunnel vision and nothing else then matters. My wife is quite good now at recognising when I’m over stimulated, if I’ve started stimming, then it’s time to go!
Yes it's definitely an autistic thing. Different senses can be under or over sensitive.
There's a good explanation on here with some examples https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/sensory-differences/sensory-differences/all-audiences
With me I'm definitely over sensitive to noise and that has caused huge problems for me throughout my life. I am over sensitive to smell and hate air fresheners and most laundry products. I am oversensitive to touch and hate being touched
I think my pain threshold must be quite low. It's difficult to compare yourself to others, as you can't feel what they are experiencing. I know whenever I need a filling at the dentist I always have to ask them to give me a double dose of the local anaesthetic. They tell me they've given me enough to tranquillise a horse and sometimes I still feel it!
The sense where I am probably under sensitive is sight. On that link I posted one of the examples given for under sensitive sight is
poor depth perception, difficulties with throwing and catching, clumsiness.
I have that for sure. I couldn't catch a ball if my life depended on it. However I always thought it was due to my dyspraxia and not a sensory issue.
Being autistic means we are neurologically different, so our interoception is affected too. Interoception is the ability to describe and respond the internal state of our body. Everything you describe in your post is a part of being autistic.
This article might be useful for you.
I am like that in so many ways and I'm sorry that you go through things like this.
You are right though when it gets like that the best thing to do is just go. I learnt from experience that staying and waiting for it to improve is a bad idea because it just gets worse and then the anxiety will get worse and before you know it you're having a meltdown.
It's lovely you have your wife and she knows the signs. I wish I had someone like that in my life.
This made for interesting reading, thank you. Change having an impact was certainly worth reading and explains a lot.
Thanks for the link- it was nice to read of the over/under for each sense. Some things I hadn’t really thought about before too.
My depth perception can be a little off at times, mostly when tired or in a stage approaching burnout. I tend to knock things over a lot with my hands then.