Does your partner find ways to “ruin” important events?
Do they complain about the brightness of the lights in the local movie theatre, the uncomfortable texture of your bedsheets, the annoying and unpleasant scent of your perfume and the sweat on their neck which prevents them from going to the gym?
It may seem that they are purposefully trying to create drama and take pleasure in negatively experiencing events that should be enjoyable and pleasing.
You may hear that they can’t go to a baseball game because the seats are too cold, the crowds too loud and the smell of beer too pungent. You may find that you often argue about this, and resent including them in experiences which are pleasurable and meaningful for you.
You may feel lonely and frustrated by their lack of ability to meet your needs or share in the things that seem normal and exciting to most people.
When confronted, your spouse may seem defensive and unable to articulate why these experiences are so overwhelming for them and instead externalize blame; to the ballpark owner for not having comfortable chairs, to the airlines for not reducing noise and air quality on the plane or even to the restaurant owner for not knowing how to appropriately dim the lights.
If these challenges occur on a regular basis, your spouse may have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
For adults with SPD, small and sometimes not so small irritants feel unbearable and intolerable.
It makes it difficult to enjoy everyday things, like the smell of a new TV or the scratchiness of a beautiful new sweater or even the sound of a high-speed train headed to Paris.
Sensory Processing Disorder is a challenging neurological condition which impairs one’s ability to process sensory information efficiently.
SPD affects how the brain absorbs information from our body’s receptors; our skin, joints, eyes, ears, nose.
People with SPD experience over reactive processing which can amplify the senses and create over sensitivity to stimuli resulting in sensory overload. To a person without SPD, a train is loud but tolerable, but to a person with SPD, that sound can be stifling, intolerable and even painful, creating anger and avoidance.
Common triggers for someone with SPD include:
- Scratchy labels and clothes
- Unwashed hair
- Sweating Spicy or bitter foods Strong odors (think blue cheese)
- Loud noises
- Textured food
- High wattage lights
- Intense sunshine or heat
- Loud music
- Dark tunnels
- Crowded elevators
- Condos or Apartments with loud neighbors
These disruptions and escalations often make relationships highly conflictual and/or create detachment and greater separation.
If you think your spouse has Sensory Processing Disorder, it is important to seek medical/psychological help.
Physicians, occupational therapists and psychotherapists trained in assessing for PSD can help. Once a diagnosis is made, working through the challenges of being married to a partner with SPD can begin.
Know that there are many effective strategies to manage SPD and that your relationship can improve with an accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment.