Tami Bar-Shalita, Sharon A. Cermak; Atypical Sensory Modulation and Psychological Distress in the General Population. Am J Occup Ther 2016;70(4):7004250010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.018648
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
OBJECTIVE. Atypical sensory modulation (ASM) is characterized by over- or underresponsiveness to sensory stimuli in one or more sensory systems. Faulty sensory information processing could result in anxiety. Because the relation between ASM and psychological distress has not been examined, we explored psychological distress and ASM in the general population.
METHOD. A community-based sample of 204 adults (105 men; mean age = 27.4 yr, standard deviation = 3.71) completed the Sensory Responsiveness Questionnaire—Intensity Scale (SRQ–IS; Bar-Shalita, Seltzer, Vatine, Yochman, & Parush, 2009); the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI; Derogatis & Coons, 1993); and the Short Form—36 Health Survey, Version 2 (SF–36; Ware, Kosinski, & Gandek, 2005).
RESULTS. The ASM group displayed considerably more distress symptoms than the comparison group. Multivariate linear regression showed SRQ–IS and SF–36 scores as significant predictors of BSI score (r = .64).
CONCLUSION. ASM may be a risk factor for developing other mental health concerns.
Sensory underresponsivity (SUR) is clinically demonstrated by delayed or decreased responses to stimulation (Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders [ICDL], 2005; Miller, Anzalone, Lane, Cermak, & Osten, 2007; Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual Task Force, 2006; Zero to Three, 2005);
Sensory overresponsivity (SOR) manifests clinically as a condition in which nonnoxious stimuli are perceived as abnormally irritating, unpleasant (Fisher & Dunn, 1983; ICDL, 2005; Miller et al., 2007; Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual Task Force, 2006; Reynolds & Lane, 2008; Zero to Three, 2005), or painful (Bar-Shalita, Vatine, Parush, Deutsch, & Seltzer, 2012; Bar Shalita, Vatine, Seltzer, & Parush, 2009; Bar-Shalita, Vatine, Yarnitsky, Parush, & Weissman-Fogel, 2014; Fisher & Dunn, 1983).
Sensory seeking, or craving, occurs when the person seeks an unusual amount or type of sensation and seems to have an extreme craving for sensation (Miller et al., 2007).
Participants with SMD showed more psychological distress symptoms than comparison group participants without SMD, though both groups were within the typical range. Although SMD does not indicate psychopathology, it may be a risk factor for mental health concerns.
Understanding SMD can contribute to understanding trajectories that may lead to mental health concerns. Occupational therapy may serve a preventive role in health promotion for participants with SMD.
This study may contribute to understanding SMD manifestations in adulthood, including the importance of using psychological distress measures in the evaluation process of SMD.
QoL of participants with SMD was reduced in measures relating to body pain, life roles, and work. These areas should also be targeted in the evaluation process of participants with SMD to contribute to best practice for this population.
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