Pamela J. Meredith, Kirsty J. Bailey, Jenny Strong, Georgia Rappel; Adult Attachment, Sensory Processing, and Distress in Healthy Adults. Am J Occup Ther 2015;70(1):7001250010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.017376
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
OBJECTIVE. To better understand the ways in which adult attachment, sensory processing, and distress may be interrelated in healthy adults.
METHOD. A cross-sectional study design was used with a convenience sample of 116 healthy participants who completed questionnaires before participating in a cold pressor pain-inducement task.
RESULTS. Attachment anxiety was significantly positively correlated with sensory sensitivity as measured using the Highly Sensitive Persons Scale and the Sensory Profile and with distress (i.e., stress, anxiety, and depression). Associations between attachment anxiety and both sensory sensitivity variables were lost when controlling for stress. Attachment avoidance was correlated only with sensory sensitivity measured using the Sensory Profile, and this relationship was retained when controlling for stress. Neither the attachment nor the stress variables were associated with sensation seeking.
CONCLUSION. Findings suggest that developing active coping approaches to deal with sensory sensitivities may be a valuable way to minimize distress. Recommendations for future research are provided.
Positive associations will be found between sensory sensitivity and attachment anxiety when controlling for distress.
Positive associations will be found between sensory avoidance and attachment avoidance when controlling for distress.
Positive associations will be found between low registration and attachment anxiety when controlling for distress.
No association will be found between sensation seeking and attachment avoidance or anxiety.
A person who is insecurely attached, sensory sensitive, and distressed may feel more compromised in therapy than others who do not have these characteristics.
Awareness of these interrelationships alerts practitioners to possible relationship-based or sensory informed therapeutic approaches that may be acceptable to this potentially vulnerable group.
It is possible that working with one domain (sensory/relationship) may improve outcomes in all three interrelated domains (sensory, attachment, and distress). For example, for someone who has an avoidant attachment pattern, commencing treatment with sensory-informed approaches may prove less threatening than providing emotional support.
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