Hypersensitivity

A very common characteristic of ASD is hypersensitivity to sensory inputs such as light and sounds. I am also very sensitive toward physical sensations. As a little kid, I really hated getting shots. Most children hate getting vaccinations, but my reactions were pretty intense. During a doctors visit when I was about 8, just as the nurse the needle into my arm, I ran from the exam room and into the waiting room screaming with my mom and the nurse trailing behind. Imagine the reaction of the of the other mothers and children in that waiting room! They had to eventually hold me down to give me the injection. While I have learned to better manage my reactions to potentially unpleasant physical sensations, having any type of medical procedure done still makes me very anxious.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to go to the dentist's office to have a minor filling done. My dentist's office is really nice. It has an island decor that puts me at ease, at least initially. The dentist used anesthetic to numb the area but I still tensed up when they started drilling. I can't explain why, but the thought of anyone making physical contact with my body using metal instruments makes my skin absolutely crawl. In order to process what was happening and relax a little, I used a "self talk" behavior therapy (also known as cognative restructuring). I reminded myself of the fact that I have gone through way more intense medical procedures before like having my wisdom teeth removed. Aside from some minor discomfort for a few days following the procedure, having my wisdom teeth extracted was not too bad. Compared to that, getting a filling done is nothing.

Hypersensitivity is simply part of my autism and so part of me. I do not think I will ever be able to get fully comfortable physical sensations associated with needles or tools at the dentists office. However, I have learned that by using the therapeutic tools I've been taught and retraining my thoughts, I can better control myself when I am enduring medical treatment that involves any degree of pain. After all, anxiety and sensitivity are for the most part psychological. That is how I am able to be in control, sit still and not run out into the hallway screaming in terror.