Fight or Flight

by sensitivestorm

“Because avoiding stimulating situations reduces anxiety, the person may duck the very experiences that can balance the nervous system, like sex, camraderie, or a workout at the gym, thereby increasing defensiveness and avoidance” ~ Sharon Heller, Ph.d

I just finished reading this book.


I learned ton about sensory defensiveness (SD) or sensory processing disorder. A ton. A few years ago I read The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) by Elaine Aaron and it was enlightening. I wish I would’ve learned more about HSP stuff years ago. Aside from being highly sensitive, I’m also sensory defensive. I may be highly sensitive because I’m sensory defensive or vice versa. I’m not sure. I don’t really care either way. For now I’m just glad I have an explanation for the way I’ve felt all my life. So, it’s not just some BS I made up because I want to sit in the front seat.

I still have unanswered questions because much of the current research on SD relates to children. There is not much research relating to SD and adults. Another confusing thing is there is a lot of information about SD being related to Autism implying that a SD diagnosis is not it’s own thing. From what I’ve read it seems there must be something else attached to it (like Autism). Not just a diagnose (of sorts) of SD by itself.

The author talks a lot about different types of defensiveness. She basically puts a name to all the things I’ve always felt but never had a name for. I may not have a proper medical description of any of these but well, this is my blog, not the Mayo Clinic. Here are the ones that resonate with me.

Check out this awesome list of symptoms I discovered: (It really upsets me that my link button is broken and I have to put all that text in here)

Auditory Defensiveness – first and foremost this is the one I have the most difficult time with. Very few people can pick this up in me. It’s helpful when someone else can though, because sometimes I forget or I don’t realize there’s a problem until its too late. I become completely disorganized when there’s a lot of noise. I become disorganized when a song comes on that resonates with me…I can become “lost” so to speak. It’s really difficult to navigate through noise.

Movement Defensiveness (Vestibular)- this is basically being ultra sensitive to movement. Quick movement. Ups and downs. Going up, going down. Motion sickness. Not liking being tipped over or pushed *jokingly. Having a fear of falling. Elevators. Eek!

Light Defensiveness – Obviously being super sensitive to light. I worked part time at Target once for about 2 months. I quit because I had a headache very day. I’m assuming it was because of the lighting. I mentioned it to the person “in charge” and he said he’s had a few people tell him the same thing. He assumes it’s the fluorescent lighting. (The sun. Need I say more?)

Tactile Defensiveness – Basically being easily overwhelmed by ordinary things like textures, tags on shirts, normal touch, etc. Wet hair on my back-after a shower-gives me the creeps just thinking about it.

One time I was pulling a weed off a tree that had grown up through as a vine. It had these little seeds on it which didn’t bother me until one jumped on my arm! I screamed. It was like the look I see on people’s faces when someone does a weird sound with a chalkboard. I can’t tell you how much I freaked out. I cannot STAND cold or wet things bumping or getting on my skin without my knowing it’s coming.

Since I’ve been able to learn more about myself I’ve observed different things I notice that signal when I’m in distress. It’s good to be able to do this because when you do you can possibly stave off some very bad situations and feelings.

Here’s how I know when I’ve reached my (un)optimal level of arousal:

Deep breaths accompanied by heavy sighs

Constant movement

Inability to focus

General agitation *snapping at people*

I eat cookies. Cookies ground me. Oh, and IHop pancakes (yuck)

People don’t think this a real thing. Tough people say “get over it”. Well, I can’t just “get over it”. Don’t you know I’m the rabbit?