What causes sensory disturbance and what should I do about it?

Symptom Database

Sensory disturbance refers to any abnormality or dysfunction in the sensory system, which includes our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. It can manifest in various ways, such as sensory impairment, sensory dysfunction, sensory issues, or sensory disorders. These disturbances can significantly impact an individual’s daily life, making it essential to understand their causes and seek appropriate solutions. In this article, we will explore the factors that contribute to sensory disturbance and provide valuable insights on how to manage and alleviate its effects.

Understanding Sensory Disturbance

Sensory disturbance can affect people of all ages and can be caused by a variety of factors. It may result from neurological conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or sensory processing disorder. Additionally, sensory disturbance can be a symptom of other underlying health issues, including:

  • Migraines or headaches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Furthermore, certain medications, injuries, or exposure to toxins can also lead to sensory disturbances. It is crucial to identify the root cause of the issue to determine the most effective course of action.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Sensory disturbances can manifest in various ways, depending on the affected sensory system. Some common symptoms include:

  • Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sensory stimuli
  • Difficulty filtering or processing sensory information
  • Heightened or reduced sensory perception
  • Discomfort or pain in response to certain stimuli
  • Impaired coordination or balance
  • Changes in vision or hearing

It is important to note that sensory disturbances can vary greatly from person to person. Some individuals may experience only mild disruptions, while others may face more severe challenges. Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Managing Sensory Disturbance

1. Seek Professional Evaluation

If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing sensory disturbance, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough evaluation, including medical history review, physical examination, and potentially refer you to specialists, such as neurologists or occupational therapists. A comprehensive assessment will help determine the underlying cause and guide appropriate treatment strategies.

2. Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment

Modifying the environment can significantly alleviate the impact of sensory disturbances. Consider the following tips:

  • Reduce noise levels by using earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones
  • Adjust lighting to minimize glare or harsh brightness
  • Use soft fabrics or textures for clothing and bedding
  • Organize and declutter living spaces to reduce visual distractions

Creating a calm and soothing environment can help individuals with sensory disturbances feel more comfortable and at ease.

3. Practice Sensory Integration Techniques

Sensory integration techniques aim to improve the brain’s ability to process and respond to sensory information effectively. These techniques can include:

  • Deep pressure therapy, such as weighted blankets or compression garments
  • Engaging in activities that stimulate the senses, such as swinging or bouncing on a therapy ball
  • Using sensory toys or tools, like fidget spinners or stress balls
  • Participating in occupational therapy sessions focused on sensory integration

These techniques can help individuals regulate their sensory experiences and enhance their overall well-being.

4. Explore Medication Options

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms associated with sensory disturbances. For example, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can help alleviate sensory-related anxiety or depression. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if medication is a suitable option and to discuss potential side effects.

5. Seek Support and Education

Living with sensory disturbances can be challenging, both for individuals and their loved ones. Seeking support from support groups or online communities can provide valuable insights, coping strategies, and emotional support. Additionally, educating oneself about sensory processing difficulties can help individuals better understand their experiences and advocate for their needs.


Sensory disturbances can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to manage and alleviate their effects. By seeking professional evaluation, creating sensory-friendly environments, practicing sensory integration techniques, exploring medication options when necessary, and seeking support and education, individuals with sensory disturbances can find relief and improve their overall well-being. Remember, everyone’s journey is unique, so it is essential to work closely with healthcare professionals to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses specific needs and goals.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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