Hypersensitive and Hyposensitive – How They Are Different?

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Sensory processing is the way the nervous system receives, interprets, and responds to sensory information from the environment. This process allows individuals to interact with the world around them and make sense of their surroundings. Sensory processing involves three primary steps: reception, interpretation, and response.

Reception involves the detection of sensory stimuli through the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. The sensory organs, such as the eyes, ears, skin, tongue, and nose, receive the stimuli and send signals to the brain for interpretation.

Interpretation involves the brain’s ability to organize and make sense of the sensory information received. The brain must determine the location, intensity, duration, and quality of the sensory stimuli and integrate this information with past experiences and knowledge.

The response involves the body’s reaction to the sensory stimuli. The response can be motor, such as movement or speech, or emotional, such as feelings of pleasure or discomfort.

Roles of the Sensory Systems- Each of the sensory systems plays a critical role in sensory processing. The visual system allows individuals to perceive and interpret visual stimuli, such as colors, shapes, and movement. The auditory system allows individuals to detect and interpret sounds, such as speech, music, and environmental noise. The tactile system allows individuals to perceive and interpret touch, pressure, temperature, and pain. The olfactory system allows individuals to perceive and interpret smells, while the gustatory system allows individuals to perceive and interpret tastes.

Individuals with hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity may have difficulty processing sensory information, causing them to overreact or underreact to sensory stimuli. For example, hypersensitivity to sound may cause an individual to be overwhelmed by loud noises, while hyposensitivity to touch may cause an individual to seek out deep pressure. Understanding sensory processing and the roles of the sensory systems is essential in identifying and addressing sensory processing difficulties.



Hypersensitivity is a condition in which an individual has an increased responsiveness to incoming sensory information. This means that the person may experience an overwhelming response to stimuli that would not typically affect others.

Characteristics of Hypersensitivity

Some common characteristics of hypersensitivity include discomfort or pain in response to certain stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, or strong smells. An individual with hypersensitivity may also become easily overwhelmed in crowded or chaotic environments. Additionally, hypersensitivity can affect an individual’s ability to focus and concentrate, leading to difficulties in academic or professional settings.

Common Triggers

Several common triggers can cause hypersensitivity. These triggers can vary from person to person, but some of the most common include loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, and crowded or chaotic environments. Additionally, certain textures or fabrics may cause discomfort or irritation in individuals with hypersensitivity.

Coping Strategies

Individuals with hypersensitivity can take steps to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Some common coping strategies include wearing noise-canceling headphones or sunglasses to reduce sensory input, using calming techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, and avoiding triggers whenever possible. Additionally, therapy and medication may be helpful for individuals with severe hypersensitivity.



Hyposensitivity is a condition where an individual has a decreased response to stimuli. This means that they require more stimulation to feel a sensation or to be aware of their surroundings. Hyposensitivity is common among individuals with sensory processing disorder, ADHD, and autism.

Characteristics of Hyposensitivity

Individuals with hyposensitivity may exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Difficulty in recognizing pain or discomfort
  • Craving for intense sensory input
  • Tendency to seek out physical contact or pressure
  • Lack of awareness of their body position in space
  • Difficulty in recognizing temperature changes

Identifying Signs

Hyposensitivity can be challenging to identify, as it is often mistaken for laziness or lack of motivation. However, some signs that may indicate hyposensitivity include:

  • Difficulty in staying focused
  • Fidgeting or restlessness
  • Tendency to seek out physical contact or pressure
  • Inability to recognize pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty in recognizing temperature changes

Management Techniques

Hyposensitivity can be managed through various techniques, including:

  • Sensory integration therapy: This therapy helps individuals with hyposensitivity to become more aware of their surroundings by exposing them to different sensory stimuli.
  • Deep pressure therapy: This technique involves applying deep pressure to the body, which can help individuals with hyposensitivity feel more grounded and aware of their body.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help individuals with hyposensitivity to become more aware of their body and surroundings.
  • Occupational therapy: This therapy can help individuals with hyposensitivity develop skills that can improve their ability to interact with their environment.

In conclusion, individuals with hyposensitivity require more stimulation to feel a sensation or to be aware of their surroundings. Identifying signs of hyposensitivity can be challenging, but management techniques such as sensory integration therapy, deep pressure therapy, exercise, and occupational therapy can help individuals with hyposensitivity become more aware of their surroundings and interact with their environment more effectively.


Assessment and Diagnosis

Professional Evaluation- If an individual is suspected of having hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity, it is important to seek a professional evaluation from a qualified healthcare provider or specialist. This may include a pediatrician, neurologist, occupational therapist, or speech-language pathologist. During the evaluation, the healthcare provider will conduct a thorough assessment of the individual’s sensory processing abilities and identify any areas of concern.

The evaluation may include standardized assessments, such as the Sensory Profile or Sensory Processing Measure, as well as clinical observations and parent/caregiver reports. The healthcare provider may also conduct a physical examination to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the individual’s sensory processing difficulties.

Diagnostic Criteria- Hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity are not currently recognized as standalone diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, sensory processing difficulties are often associated with other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sensory processing disorder (SPD).

To receive a diagnosis of ASD, an individual must meet specific criteria outlined in the DSM-5, including persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction, as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Sensory processing difficulties are often present in individuals with ASD, with some individuals experiencing hypersensitivity and others experiencing hyposensitivity.

Similarly, a diagnosis of SPD is not currently recognized in the DSM-5 but is often diagnosed by occupational therapists or other healthcare providers who specialize in sensory processing. To receive a diagnosis of SPD, an individual must meet specific diagnostic criteria outlined by the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, including difficulties with sensory modulation, sensory discrimination, and/or sensory-based motor planning.


Interventions and Therapies

Sensory Integration Therapy is a treatment for individuals with sensory processing issues, including hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. This therapy helps the individual to process sensory input more effectively and efficiently. Sensory Integration Therapy is typically provided by occupational therapists who have specialized training in this area. They use a variety of techniques to help the individual with sensory issues feel more comfortable. This may include deep pressure massage, swinging, and brushing.

Occupational therapy is another treatment for individuals with sensory processing issues. This therapy focuses on improving the individual’s ability to perform daily activities, such as dressing, grooming, and eating. Occupational therapists work with individuals to develop skills and strategies to manage sensory input. This may include using weighted blankets, wearing noise-canceling headphones, and using fidget toys.

Behavioral approaches are often used in conjunction with sensory integration therapy and occupational therapy. These approaches focus on changing behaviors that are associated with sensory processing issues. This may include teaching the individual coping strategies, such as deep breathing and mindfulness techniques. Behavioral approaches may also involve modifying the individual’s environment to reduce sensory input. For example, the use of dim lighting and soft music may help to reduce sensory overload.

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