How to deal with constant state of discomfort from touch

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Emu Egg
Emu Egg

Joined: 6 Feb 2022
Age: 52
Gender: Female
Posts: 1
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

06 Feb 2022, 4:02 pm

I'm posting this on behalf of my teen who is in too much discomfort right now to do research to find solutions. My teen is going through a particularly rough time with sensory issues right now. She finds all physical touch (including sitting or lying down, the feeling of her legs touching each other, etc) unbearable. She's always been sensory sensitive but it seems to be getting worse - it's unclear if it's because some of her usual coping mechanisms are not available to her right now (she's not finding any activities interesting enough to distract her from the feelings of being uncomfortable) or there has been a change in the intensity of the physical sensations. She's desperately looking for suggestions or ideas that could help.

She's feeling too uncomfortable to sit up and type on the laptop at the moment so I told her that I would try to find some info. She would really like to hear from people who are on the autism spectrum (like herself) and who themselves have experienced these feelings of discomfort. What actions or steps helped you to cope with this?

Thank you in advance.


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Joined: 28 Sep 2006
Gender: Female
Posts: 4,559
Location: Surrey, UK

06 Feb 2022, 4:09 pm

Hi song69 and welcome :). This is a very common issue in those with sensory sensitivity on the spectrum(the majority of us), and is all about desensitisation. An Occupational Therapist can help with these issues. I much prefer firm rather than gentle touch(which can feel painful) and things such as running a soft bristled brush, using various items as recommended by an OT can certainly help with these issues.

I should also add, that at 16, I found outlets such as particular solo sports(gymnastics, swimming really helped as an outlet). The higher the stress levels, the more your daughter’s likely to find things less tolerable. Reduce the stressors and things may improve. I’ve learned to respect my sensitivities, and those around me, have learned what I best tolerate. I wouldn’t be as easy going today though, had I not de-sensitized myself out of instinct as a teenager. All the best to your daughter.

Good to acknowledge that as with all things in life, it can be about knowing what to ease/change and what to learn to respect as a natural difference and working with that, rather than against it. In the case of suffering though, it’s naturally good to explore ways of alleviating that sensitivity to make life and living more bearable.

I once wrote about sensory sensitivities …

Pileated woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker

Joined: 20 Jan 2018
Age: 41
Gender: Male
Posts: 187
Location: Melbourne, Australia

07 Feb 2022, 6:15 am

+1 for occupational therapist.

You'll find a lot of gems about this in the book Divergent Mind but Jenara Nerenberg, do please check it out.

I'll just add - sensory sensitivity and emotion are often linked, and can feed back into each other.

Anti-anxiety measures and accommodations may help.
Relief from other sensory stimulus like noisy environments might help, as might relief from sources of autistic burn-out.

A soothing/familiar soundtrack might help. Perhaps there might be appropriate meditations, regrettably I'm not personally aware of such.

I might try a breathing-based meditation, do you have the Headspace app? They offer free trials so no harm in looking.

There's many more things that are well-known to OT's but which I'm not personally familiar with.


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Joined: 25 Oct 2013
Gender: Male
Posts: 882

07 Feb 2022, 7:49 am

Tactile stimulation can trigger anxiety about a loss of control. It might be possible to use intentional control to offset anxiety. For example, finger rubbing can introduce a degree of intentionality that might raise the threshold of annoyance.

The Greeks used to use "worry beads" as a way to idly keep their hands occupied (it might also be an alternative to smoking).


Joined: 23 Feb 2020
Gender: Female
Posts: 988
Location: Alpena MI

09 Feb 2022, 1:09 pm

check out use of stimulants, otc antihistamines, or things like cola, tea, coffee which can heighten some of these experiences, also prescribed meds can have odd side effects, so check in with the prescribing doctor if she is on prescription meds. I second the idea of Occupational Therapists who have lots of good ideas about how to deal with sensory overwhelm. Hope you find some things that help!


"Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” Samuel Johnson