Emotional Empaths or Adults with SPD–Is There a Connection?

Judith Orloff, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of the book Emotional Freedom, posted this blog piece with some tips on how to regroup if you are an “emotional empath” (her term) and get overwhelmed in a partnership. This “emotional empath” phenomenon seems to overlap SPD in some ways and I suspect these tips would work well for adults with sensory processing disorder. All of us need to get away from sensory stimulation at times, but if you’re very sensitive–with a hypersensitive nervous system, or a hypersensitive emotional response–I can see how you would need these types of accommodations to handle living with a spouse or partner.

Many of us parents of kids with sensory processing disorder have sensory processing issues as well. My husband can tell you if my clothes are at all damp (let’s say we left the windows open in the car, it rained, and I realized too late that the seat was wet) I am an irritable wreck until I get on some dry clothes. Knowing more about SPD makes him more tolerant of my sensory needs, and me more tolerant of him (do NOT use artificial air fresheners around his nose! just do not even think it!).

How about you? Do your sensory issues interfere with your interactions with your spouse? Are the two of you more understanding of sensitivities now that you have a child with SPD?



Filed under adults with sensory issues, Dads of kids with SPD, Moms of kids with SPD, parents with sensory processing disorder, Practical tips for sensory issues, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder

8 responses to “Emotional Empaths or Adults with SPD–Is There a Connection?

  1. Angela Dickey

    My husband is getting better. I think he has some sensory issues even though he does not realize it.

    I too have some, it’s weird though when I was a little kid I was always annoying others by touching everything and hanging on my mom and now that I’m an adult to a certain extent touch bugs me.

    Can our sensory issues change?

    • I think they can change. I know that when I was younger, I could handle playground swings very well and now my vestibular system is much touchier–I loathe them! I also am far more sensitive to sharp, trebley sounds than I used to be.

      I think we also learn to “stifle” our needs to conform and then we just get used to being uncomfortable. Our sensory issues can become sensory preferences. And if you’re stressed out for any reason–tired, under the weather, too much going on–you just can’t pull it together to tolerate, say, the sounds of dishes clattering at a noisy restaurant! And I’m going to assume hormonal changes–adolescence, menopause, having a baby–can factor in, too.

  2. Stifle yourself, indeed! My work life is full of stifling myself to conform. The previous poster is absolutely right about hormonal changes at menopause affecting your ability to deal with sensory issues.

    • Funny thing is that at menopause, a woman’s level of oxytocin, the “cuddling” and “caretaking” hormone, drops…perhaps there’s a biological reason why when a woman hits menopause she may find she has no more patience for coddling people who are all uptight about differences? Maybe we were designed to reach a point at which we tell people, “You know what? Get over it already!” 🙂 At least, that’s what I got out of Christiane Northrup’s wonderful book on menopause!

  3. LOL I assert my need for personal space all the time. Thank God my Hubbo is use to it. (Don’t kiss me w/o shaving, brushing your teeth, no touching while sleeping, don’t touch my face, EVER- I mean it…) I wonder what’s gonna happen when menopause hits…

  4. Hi,
    I’m the author of Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight. You’ve covered lots of ground her. I have a new book published – Uptight & Off Center. Directed primarily for adults, it covers all aspects of SPD and focuses on the mental health issues involved in the dysfunction. I think it will answer some of your conundrums. It is available on Amazon currently as an ebook.

    Warmly, Sharon Heller

    • Sharon, your book was groundbreaking. So many kids with SPD have parents (or become adults) with sensory processing issues! I’m eager to read your new book.
      There are many modalities for retraining the brain, and SI therapy via an OT is the “gold standard,” but of course, the number of OTs who have any experience in working with adults, or even teens, is miniscule. Access to modalities that work is key–and of course, research is slow to be funded, published, reviewed, and analyzed. Meanwhile, real people are struggling!
      Thanks for commenting and letting us know about Uptight and Off Center.

      • Yes you are quite right. Not only do many OTs not have experience in working with adults, but it’s often hard to get an appointment and it is expensive as insurance won’t cover it. Further, if you have SPD, you have more than sensory issues. When the nervous system is off kilter, so is typically your digestion, your posture, your emotional and mental state, your general health and well being… on and on. All these need to be addressed or OT will have limited results because they are all destabilizing. And…. as Patti Oetter has said, most of us have “escaped” diagnosis. SPD is pervasive in the population way beyond the 10% of children who get diagnosed. Basically, if you are uptight and also off center, you likely have SPD. And as we know that’s a whole bunch of people!

        I wrote this book because when I participated in the forums there were so many questions people had that went beyond what I covered in Too Loud, Too Bright. Hopefully this book captures many of their concerns. And if not, I welcome hearing from you at info@sharonheller.net

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