Hypersensitivities: The Princess and the Pea Syndrome
August 20th 2005
It's 12:30 a.m and
you force yourself off the computer and head for bed. Your alarm will go
off in exactly 6 hours so you know you've got to get some good solid
As you trudge into
the bathroom to wash up, you begin to get more awake rather than sleepy.
The tang of the toothpaste in your mouth and the roughness of the
bristles jar your oral senses. As you search for your softest, most
comfy pajamas, you realize you've left them in the washing machine and
have nothing remotely as pleasant to sleep in. So you grab your 2nd
favorite pair of PJs. But they just don't feel right. The tag on the
collar starts to make your skin itch and ache at the same time. You
begin to scratch. And scratch.
12:45 a.m and you
collapse into bed. But you forgot to stretch out the sheets tautly and
now you feel ridges of fabric ripping across your back, legs and arms.
You get out of bed to pull them more tightly and jump back in. You are
aware of bumps and irregularities and just can't get comfortable. The
room is too hot. Or maybe too cold.
As you try hard to
empty your brain of all your thoughts, worries and ruminations, you hear
something. It is so loud, you wonder if it's coming from under your
pillow. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. You realize the sound is not
coming from the pillow; it's across the room. Your husband has purchased
a new clock! And it's not digital. The noise pierces through your brain
and you want to throw it out the window. Instead, you take it downstairs
and put it under the couch. Even placing it in the next room wouldn't
keep that horrible sound from reaching your sensitive ears.
1:15 am and you're
still awake. Some odd odor is bothering you and you can't identify the
source. It becomes stronger and stronger and you suddenly realize that a
skunk has entered the house and sprayed the dog. You wake your husband
up urgently to search for the poor victim so you can a) bath him
immediately or b) throw him out of the house.
But the dog is at
your side, not having moved the entire evening. You realize that the
skunk is somewhere outside. You've been fooled again by your
hypersensitive olfactory organ.
You hold your nose,
place your arm over your ears and finally...FINALLY fall asleep. At
precisely 6:30, your clock radio screams out an old Monkees tune and you
wake up in a combined state of fog/fright, not knowing where you are,
even though you've lived in the same house for 12 years. The awful song
is now stuck in your brain and you WANT to take the Last Train To
Clarksville. You start your day the same way you have for 35 years:
being totally overwhelmed by your own senses. All of which are so finely
tuned, that you feel like a piano string so tightly woven, just ready to
Mary Jane Johnson,
in her 1998 article titled: "Having ADD And
Being Hypersensitive: Is there a Connection?" shares a fascinating
exploration of AD/HD nuances that we don't often read, hear or talk
about. We know the common AD/HD symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Or inattention, distractibility. But little is mentioned of the AD/HD
and hypersensitivity connection. Sari Solden was one of the first to
address it in her book "Women with Attention Deficit Disorder".
until I began reading about AD/HD- particularly AD/HD in women- I
thought I was just an over-sensitive baby who had no backbone, no spine.
I thought I was the only one who had an exaggerated startle response to
the slightest noise. A sneeze from the back of a restaurant could cause
me to jump a foot straight up from my chair. Not fun when you have a
glass of red wine in your hand.
reading more about AD/HD, and talking to my clients and friends with
AD/HD, I've come to learn just how common hypersensitivities are in
people with AD/HD. I've since learned that I'm not crazy for hating:
Walking on a sticky floor
Light touch to my skin
Tags in my blouses
Getting caught in the rain
Jane, in her article, talks about her aversion to clothes with fitted
waistbands, various food textures (tomato sauce is fine. Tomatoes are
and I share an aversion to loud TVs, unsolicited touch, large crowds,
and more. She lists many more from a survey she took of attendees at the
4th annual ADDA conference that was held in Washington, DC back in 1998.
It's quite interesting to see what adults with AD/HD listed as trouble
spots. You can read her survey results at
In working with
adults with AD/HD, I will usually ask if they are bothered by
hypersensitivities and often they are amazed to hear that they are not
alone. Perhaps you too are bothered by the things listed above and never
realized the connection between that and having AD/HD.
What To Do
that this is part of your own neurology. You are simply more sensitive
to your environment and your own "skin". Instead of trying to tough it
out, find ways to make your life more comfortable.
Here are some ideas
to help you manage your hypersensitivities:
- If high heels
are simply too painful to deal with, dump them for comfortable flats.
- If the sound
level is too high at home or at work, purchase special headphones that
block out noise or consider white noise machines.
- If you have
trouble falling asleep because of all the noise bouncing around inside
OR outside your head, turn on a small fan or purchase a small bubbling
fountain to sooth you to sleep.
- Try wearing
soft, loose fitting clothing, particularly soft knits or cotton.
- If jewelry is
bothersome but you must wear a watch, consider a loose bracelet watch
- If you become
overwhelmed with too much stimuli, take yourself out of the situation.
Go to a quiet place, close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
- After work, take
off all clothing and jewelry and put on a loose fitting robe to help
calm and center yourself.
- Have regular
massages if you find that enjoyable (personally, I hate them!)
- Get out in
nature as much as possible.
The main point is
to stop fighting what you can't control and find ways to ease you into
your days with as much comfort as possible. Remember, you're not
"weird"...it's just your wiring.
If you would like to submit a story
or article please submit it
By Terry Matlen, ACSW In collaboration with Mary
Jane Johnson, PCC, ACT
Matlen, MSW., ACSW, is a psychotherapist and consultant specializing in
AD/HD in adults. She is the author of
"Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD",
director of www.addconsults.com and www. myADDstore.com
and serves on the board of directors of the Attention Deficit Disorder
Association (ADDA). A popular presenter at local and national
conferences, Ms. Matlen has a passion for raising awareness of the
special challenges for women with AD/HD and the unique issues parents
face when both they and their children have AD/HD.
Jane Johnson, ACT, PCC, is a Professional Certified Coach that works
with women who have ADD and are struggling with organization and time
management. She was on the founding board of ADDA (1989) and is
currently Vice President of Programming.
Keywords and misspellings: ADD ADHD AD-HD
hyperactivity simptoms hypersensity hipersensitivy
Copyright 2005 Best Syndication Last Updated
Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:46 PM