Sensory Processing Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, & anxiety disorder. Is there a connection?

Is there a link between SPD, OCD, & Anxiety?

Recently, this is a question that has stopped me in my tracks when it comes to my son.We’ve ran into some concern with his habits & I needed answers asap.By the end of this article, you’re going to learn most of what I’ve already learned so far.It blew my mind honestly.

When my son was only 3 years old,

I began to notice that he was washing his hands quite often. I honestly didn’t think much of it at first. I was like hey, at least he’s keeping his hands clean right? Wrong. It was much more than that.It wasn’t long before I noticed his little hands started feeling really dry & rough, they were red, & eventually started to look like they were beginning to crack. I knew it was time to take him to see his doctor.

We left there that day with a referral to OT (Occupational Therapy) & shortly after, he was evaluated & on the same day was diagnosed with SPD (sensory processing disorder) by the lady who gave him his evaluation.

There were some bumps in the road at first but we are now finally somewhere comfortable.

There have always been things here & there that were concerning with him. I was always sure to bring it up no matter how ridiculous it seemed. Always go with your intuition mama’s because nothing is too ridiculous when it comes to your kiddo.

A few examples in our every day lives…

Even the slightest change is a huge struggle for him. Every day tasks can be difficult, seeming almost impossible for him. It causes extreme meltdowns. At the same time, I can’t prepare him ahead of time (the night before) because he won’t sleep well. All he will think about is what we are doing the next day.

He is always scratching himself on things (if ya know what I mean) refuses to use his hand because he thinks he’s going to get something on his hands. This has been going on for quite a long time now.

Used to, he would get really upset if you wouldn’t let him touch your feet/legs.

Since I can remember, he has always had to Β¨petΒ¨ my face to fall asleep (that’s what he calls it) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on the hard floor, beside his bed to get him to fall asleep just so he could rub my face. Or how many times I had to do that when he would wake up throughout the night. And, man, if I have makeup on, it’s not okay; he despises when I wear makeup & begs me to take it off.

His clothes have to feel a certain way, & they can’t have tags in them. He only wears sweatpants & soft shorts. And his shirts have to feel okay to him. His socks have to be on perfectly. Everything has to be on the right way or he isn’t happy.

He picks out every flaw in every toy he has & if there’s anything I can do, I have to fix it. If there’s tags on stuffed animals, I have to cut them off.

We’ve gone through a lot of sleep problems from very early on in his life, we went to the doctor on 2 separate occasions for that. Not only was he waking up several times a night (from the time he was born, on up) but he would get up really early & have extreme difficulty falling asleep. His doctor is absolutely amazing & helped us tremendously. If y’all want to hear all about that, I’ll dedicate an entire blog post on that.

(Stay until the end to get your free PDF’s! If you can’t use them, maybe you know someone who can. Spread the love & the awareness.)

So, what is this SPD anyway?

If you’re anything like I was, you haven’t got a clue. Maybe I can shine a little light. Thanks to a few super amazing resources, I learned a little bit more.

When my son was diagnosed, I had never even heard of it. But some really awesome people helped us learn more & still do.

Us mama’s though, we use our resources. And if you’re anything like myself you will Google until your eyes go crossed, join facebook groups, read blogs, find people on Instagram & Twitter, whatever you can find.

Someone with SPD can be affected in 1 or multiple senses, over or under respond to sensations. Clothes, physical contact, light, sounds, foods, & other sensory input are all every day things that effect an over responder, like my son. Motor skills can be affected & they are often overwhelmed by sensory challenges. The result could be a meltdown, tantrum, or withdraw.

All children are different & so are their symptoms. My son may have the complete opposite symptoms of what your daughter may have or vise versa, his may be more severe than hers or vise versa. Please remember to keep that in mind as you read this.

SPD leaves a person feeling unsafe in the world; can you imagine how traumatic that must be? I mean, even as an adult, that must feel pretty damn traumatizing. And the sad truth is, so many people go misdiagnosed or without diagnosis at all, in my eyes that is completely heart breaking.

With the treatment they need & deserve, they can live a much better life. No treatment can lead to failure in school, mental health disorders, anti-social behavior, childhood psychiatric symptoms like anxiety, ADHD, ADD, etc. addiction, & more (check out some of the resources at the end of the article if you want to know even more)

SPD is there from early on, possibly even before birth. Your kiddo may feel out of control, different, may not trust themselves, even develop further signs of anxiety or depression.

Sensory differences = difficulty self regulating & modulating = unpredictable, scary, painful, uncomfy experiences.

(Stay until the end to get your free PDF’s! If you can’t use them, maybe you know someone who can. Spread the love & the awareness.)

I’ve learned so much more about my & why he does, says, acts certain ways. At the same time, it’s still heartbreaking & sometimes leaves you feeling so helpless.

Currently, we dealing with the chapped hands again. It’s like pulling teeth trying to get him to put something on the back of his hands because he swears that something is getting on his palms. He wants to wash his hands so bad. So sometimes it’s a struggle to get them to heal. But we are doing our best up in here!

A few months ago, I began to notice he was licking his fingertips, toys also. Gradually, the fingertips turned into his entire hand, & whole toys in his mouth.Recently, it really began to affect him in a negative way.

We take a trip to one of our local Walmarts, I look over in the middle of our trip & see him with both hands in his mouth. I panicked. As a mom, the first thing you think of is him getting sick from something he’s picked up after touching everything. Upon leaving, I felt sad & kind of lost. How can you possibly be able to take him somewhere like that if he’s going to put his hands in his mouth?

Once we got home & everything had calmed down, I decided to try & talk with him about it again. Usually, he doesn’t have an answer for me but I asked him why he put his hands in his mouth at the store & he said to me that it cleans them. I assumed it was as simple as that. But it was not.

During our last visit with his OT, she shed even more light on the situation. She asked him about it also & he told her that there are too many people, too many noises, too many things to look at, too many of everything everywhere. She thought it was anxiety related. Basically he’s going through sensory overload & it’s causing him a whole lot of anxiety. The boy LOVES going to the store to look around so it broke my heart.

The thing is… he can’t control what’s happening around him at the store, but he CAN control his hands.This visit with the OT led to even more extensive research than before. I needed answers.

Was it the SPD causing this?

Was it anxiety separately?

Was it OCD?

Was it a mixture of all of them?

I had no clue honestly. But I needed to & the answers I found were a little mind blowing.

When it comes to the anxiety & OCD aspect, I was clueless, I’m not going to lie.My question was, is there a difference between SPD & anxiety? With SPD it doesn’t matter how many times you work through the triggers, your child is still going to show the same symptoms because kids with SPD are unable to adapt to new information.

They like routine & predictability. You can help with the triggers using gentle exposure then help them to work through it when the problem rears its ugly head.

Their unique sensory system just doesn’t do well with potential stimuli.

It is more common in kids who are oversensitive as every day situations can trigger a response.Overload can make basic activities seem like an assault.

Result: may come to dread every day situations due to stress or worry about situations.

Almost everything in this poor boys life turns into some type of repetetive habit. From asking questions over & over, going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, washing his hands constantly, thinking that everyone is telling a lie all of the time, he needs reassurance about everything, multiple times, etc.

From the outside looking in, it seems like his meldowns are bad behavior.

Sure, he’s a little spoiled, I can’t deny that. But I can promise his meltdowns have reasoning.

I learned quickly that the SPD affecting his mood & temperment dramatically. Its something we have to work on every day. And it isn’t always easy. I also learned that he is an over responder & a sensory craver which helps me to better understand him.

OR & SC are 2 of the 4 main characteristics.

We’ll talk about that on a later date πŸ™‚

(Stay until the end to get your free PDF’s! If you can’t use them, maybe you know someone who can. Spread the love & the awareness.)

OCD + Sensory Sensitivities can be seen as someone sensitive to smells, tastes, touch = rituals centered around cleanliness.

Kids with OCD are intolerant to ordinary sensory stimuli which can also lead to subjective distress, along with time consuming ritualistic behavior.

When feeling disorganized & dysregulated, OCD symptoms can arise. But sensory anchors can help their brain to feel better & more controlled.

They are going to do what feels good to their nervous system.

Their world = unpredictable; They don’t feel in control of their own bodies, brains, & environments so they resort to something they CAN control.

Developing excessive ritualistic behavior can cause upset in their daily routines & functions.

One of the biggest questions I have had through it all has been, what can I do?

How can I help?

This is what I learned…

β€’ Bring awareness to. Make it known what they struggle with, what their triggers are, what they do & don’t like, what to expect, etc.

β€’ Don’t be afraid to avoid the situation altogether or find an alternative, give yourself & your child permission to do so.

β€’ Some sensory anxiety cannot be avoided, so buckle up, & prepare! Pack some fidget toys or something that will keep him calmer to take along.

β€’ Talk with them about what’s going to happen ahead of time & prepare yourselves. Ear defenders, weighted vests, etc. that you can try.

β€’ There are going to be days when there is no time to prepare. Have time after the fact for some sensory anxiety calming strategies. Create a safe & comfy place for both of you to calm.As the years pass, more therapists are becoming specialized in this type of therapy for adults & adolescents. Typically, services are OT & school base therapies. And once they age out, it can become difficult to find services.At the end of the day, it’s all about what works best for you & for your kiddo.

β€’ Can remove them from the environment altogether.

β€’ Can try to change the environment.

β€’ Can prepare for what’s to come (to an extent)

β€’ Sensory diet can help improve self regulation.

β€’ Learn your child’s triggers & let them know you’re aware of them.

β€’ Try going places when it’s not packed or let them know you don’t kind leaving if it becomes too much.

β€’ Talk about what to expect.

β€’ Brainstorm strategies, talk when calm about what you both could do to feel less stress.

β€’ Are they over registering or under registering?

He/she might experience anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, OCD, etc.Dysregulation can impact daily function, social-emotional development, school performance, family quality of life, etc.

Persons behavior + others reactions to them = influence ones sense of self.

Not addressing can have significant negative outcome.

Bright lights, loud noises, lots of noise, unfamiliar situations & surroundings can create stress, sensory overload, & anxiety.

Some are over sensitive, some are under sensitive, & some experience both.

From what I’ve gathered, the anxiety & the OCD behavior that my boy is experiencing is stemming from his SPD. Now that we know this, we can do a better job at helping & understanding him.

In life, we’re all entitled to our own thoughts, opinions, feelings & beliefs. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have an open mind & open heart.

As a mama, when it comes to your baby, you want to know as much as possible.

I knew that if I had all of these questions about it, if I was this lost on the topics, someone else out there feels the same way. There are so many out there who have never even heard of SPD just like myself.

Until my sons diagnosis, I didn’t know diddly squat about sensory anything (hey, I’m just being honest!) I’ve dealt with a lot of judgement from outsiders. I can’t count the comments I’ve heard or the looks I’ve received. I decided it was my time to spread some awareness, shed a little light, maybe even open some eyes.

Who knows, maybe someone will read this article & gain a little better understanding of that child they saw, possibly even judged at the grocery store yesterday.

I’m not here to change anyones mind or feelings, I’m just here to share my experience & allow you to create your own thoughts about it.

No child should have to go through these types of struggles on an every day basis. At the same time, our journey has been an eye opening, life changing experience.

I’m not perfect; there are days when I raise my voice, get frustrated, don’t stop to take the time to breathe & remind myself that he is learning & so am I.

Just because we are mamas, doesn’t mean we have to try to be perfect, it just means we have to try our best (remember: no one is perfect, it doesn’t exist!)

If you’re here reading this, I want to personally take the time to thank you; for taking your time & energy to read this & open your heart & mind. Thank you for truly listening to this message & living in my sons shoes for a few minutes of your life.

Here’s your 2 free PDF’s, thank you for reading until the end!

SPD, what can I do to help?

SPD, the process (for newbies)


SPD star

Life Skills 4 Kids


A Sensory Life

WS Resources!

Don’t forget to check out the resource page while you’re here for more!

3 Thoughts to “Sensory Processing Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, & anxiety disorder. Is there a connection?”

  1. […] I said in my previous post SPD, OCD, & Anxiety Disorder. Is there a connection?, a child who experiences SPD misenterprets every day sensory information. Often they feel abushed […]

  2. Crystol Syallimgs

    Love this … This is really really good Jennifer an very informative my grand son has some mild issues. But by husband has some major sensory an OCD issues although never diagnosed I know the hard there from years of making sure things are a certain way so there are no meltdowns lol

    1. Thank you so much Crystol! And thank you for reading πŸ™πŸΌπŸ’› If you don’t mind my asking, has your grandson ever been diagnosed or anything? Just curious πŸ™‚ And girl I know all about that! Certain things are major triggers for my son & a meltdown.

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