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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Comorbid Anxiety and Sleep Masks

Long time no blog! Just wanted to post a quick update. It's been quite a tough summer, anxiety-wise: no surprise with all of the life changes over the course of the past year. I am learning now how to balance my sensory issues and my anxiety - they are intertwined, and often hard to piece apart, but need to be treated as components of a whole in order for progress to be made and confidence to be gained.

I recently read an article in an OT magazine (http://www.aota.org/Pubs/OTP/2011-OTP/OTP-060611.aspx?FT=.pdf, page 13) on adult SPD and comorbid anxiety issues. It's not fully understood quite yet, but as far as I understand, it's quite common for previously undiagnosed SPD adults to have documented anxiety disorders. This is no surprise, as decades of untreated sensory issues - many of which make people jump, fear, become agitated - can easily become components of anxiety disorders, especially when misunderstood. Scenario: let's say you're sensory defensive when it comes to noise. Every time a car backfires, a radio blares, a crowd hums, you feel uncomfortable internally (because, hey, you're wired that way). Too much of this input, and your wiring cannot process the noises properly, so it short-circuts: you have panic attacks, feel dissociated, cry, explode with anger. You won't understand why. Enough experiences like this, and most likely you'll start avoiding the places and situations in which you feel crappy. The thought of immersing yourself in them might make you feel scared. The roots of an anxiety disorder have developed. This is one of the reasons why catching SPD while young is desirable - there's still time to understand what causes the internal, uncomfortable feelings, and less space to become anxious as a result of no further explanations. Regardless, it's heart-warming to see that *someone* is interested in how the adult population, mostly untreated for years, deals with this condition.

Further in the world of sensory, I just bought my second weighted blanket from The Magic Blanket: http://www.beanblanket.com/ - Keith is a blanket guru, and will help you figure out the exact weight and length needed for your particular body and issues. I now have one to keep at home, and one to keep at my family's beach house, so no more 16+ lb. lugging of "strange" bedding materials necessary :-) In the same vein, I have bought a weighted lavender sleep mask from a vendor on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/listing/70828103/weighted-flaxseed-lavender-sleep-eye. Really helps me tune out any visual stimulation in the bedroom, while feeling proprioceptively-weighted down and comfortable. The idea for this came from Josh, who has noticed when I'm feeling flail-y in the evening, I respond well to his hand pressed firmly over my eyes. According to him, this action puts me in a drug-like state, and my body immediately calms down. With my new weighted mask, I thankfully don't need to bribe him to keep his hand over my eyes while I sleep.