"Sensory seeking" is such a weird phrase

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C2V
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14 Jul 2017, 8:25 am

I was thinking about stimming today. Because I stim all the time.
I have read this described as "sensory seeking behaviour," as if autistic people are actually trying to get more sensory information from their stims.
I have more than enough sensory information to deal with already, I certainly don't need to be seeking any more deliberately. The term seems misleading. To me, stimming is more a sensory block.
A pain specialist once told me the brain can only process one primary source of pain at one time, and will focus on that source as a kind of neurological triage, and the other sources, if they exist, are dulled while that primary source is still active.
This is what stimming does for me. Provides that primary sensory input, so I can block out all the other input getting at me that I can't handle. This goes for physical stims (rubbing the back of my bottom teeth with my tongue, which I do constantly, or humming randomly but importantly without a tune, which I suspect I do way too much, squashing my nose down against my lips, flexing my fingers or subtle hand-flapping, etc) or purely mental stims - at the moment, stimming hard on an animated movie. It's to keep everything else out, not arouse more.
Is this the same for others who stim a lot? Are you actually trying to get sensation into you, or using that one sensation to keep everything else out?


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14 Jul 2017, 9:02 am

Agreed! I bumped into the phrase recently and found it misleading as well, it actually left me confused for days and I too was thinking "If you're headed to sensory overload, why would they suggest you're sensory SEEKING??"

Thanks for posting, that's interesting what the pain specialist said. What do you mean by mental stimming, just keeping your brain focused on one thing to soothe yourself?

I used to chew everything as a kid but my mom was adamant about not letting me do it. These days I excuse myself and either take walks or meditate, though I definitely finger tap, toe tap, things like that. I've not been diagnosed as having Aspergers but may be in range for it, and definitely get overstimulated, am highly sensitive to lights, sound, smells, touch, emotions. My coping mechanism recently has been to turn all my focus in on myself, slow my breathing, relax, not worry about what's going on around me, and check in to see if I have any physical needs that need to be met. Often when I do that for five minutes I will go "Oh my god, I forgot to take an allergy pill today" or "Man, I didn't even notice that pain in my neck until now, I could use some stretching!" Or it allows me to slow enough to remind myself that self-care is paramount, often I will just b***h and moan if I need to use my inhaler and keep putting it off and putting it off, trying to ignore the crabbiness that comes from not feeling well.



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14 Jul 2017, 9:18 am

Sensory seeking seems a little bit like risk taking to me. It sounds like a very unhealthy concept. My only really uncomfortable sense is smell and I try to avoid bad smells so I don't gag or throw up. Nothing sensory seeking there.



Kythe
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14 Jul 2017, 1:04 pm

I think sensory seeking is a very appropriate term for me, but I don't think it's necessarily the same thing as stimming. Like there are times when I definitely crave certain sensory input, so I seek it out. That's not really the same thing as seeking sensory input because I'm trying to calm myself down or block out other unpleasant sensory input. So I definitely do both of those things, but there's a difference and I'm not sure if most people understand the distinction.

On a somewhat related note, when I mentioned the term stimming to my new therapist, who claimed that he had plenty of experience working with those on the spectrum, he had no idea what I was talking about. I mean he did understand what I meant when I explained it and he was like "Oh, you mean self stimulation". I don't know, I'm just feeling like I have less confidence in his level of experience if he wasn't even familiar with the term stimming despite being familiar with the concept. I guess I won't write him off just because of that, but I'm probably going to be a bit more guarded than I was.



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14 Jul 2017, 1:22 pm

They should specify if by "Sensory seeking" they mean positive sensory or negative sensory.

I am understimulated so I seek noise, movement, and light. Some people thought I was ADHD. Maybe I am.



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14 Jul 2017, 5:30 pm

Sensory seeking is more related to sensory processing disorder. People will it will seek it out because they need it or else they get anxious if they can't do it. Kind of like OCD except there is no "If I don't rub something in my hand, something bad will happen" and it doesn't give them anxiety to stim like it would for OCD. Perhaps they would have anxiety if they didn't seek it out or if they couldn't. I talked to someone with SPD and this is what he told me and this was his diagnoses while his own daughter had ASD and SPD.

I was seen as fidgety when I was a kid people also thought I had ADHD so I was seeing a neurologist for it. I remember I just enjoyed the sensation and doing things because I liked the movement or the feel but I didn't get anxious if I couldn't do them. It was just something I did naturally. I don't know if that was sensory seeking because I never thought of it. I also used to eat for the feeling and the taste, I am surprised I didn't gain weight from it but maybe because I didn't do it all the time. I only did it when I could. It's not like my mom always had snacks in the house and I would get too full to keep enjoying it. But it did make me gain weight eventually when my metabolism changed so I quit doing it in 7th grade and I lost some weight.


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15 Jul 2017, 2:41 am

I used to be a sensory seeker as a child.
Back then, I couldn't help but do things or I'll be frustrated or do something as equally. :|
It's like stimming, but not for relaxation or boredom. It's not for refocusing the mind, nor assurance. It's not addiction either, there are limits until it is enough -- like being 'full'. It's not for transferring extra energies out either, even though it appears like it.

It's like some form of thirst for lacking sensory input. Simple as that.

Sensory seeking isn't a weird phrase for me. More like a weird phase. :lol:

True enough, as a child, I sort of seek some form of thrill. More so that I had a screwed sense of danger. I'm just lucky enough that I never had an incident related to risky behavior during childhood.


And, when I start having some form of anxiety -- mostly for social reasons -- I start losing the crave until I became a sensory intolerant, sensory avoider.


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C2V
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15 Jul 2017, 4:05 am

Quote:
What do you mean by mental stimming, just keeping your brain focused on one thing to soothe yourself?

Yar pretty much, I just watch it on repeat whenever I can, watch scenes from it on my phone etc, or when I'm doing other things I'm replaying and "watching" scenes from it in my head, repeating the songs in my mind. It's because everything else happening outside of it is too much for me and keeping focused on that one stim soothes me. It's stemming rather than stimulating, So I'm focusing on one thing that I find reassuring and the other things can't get in at me as much. Self-comforting behaviour basically. Same as humming without tune.
Quote:
I am understimulated so I seek noise, movement, and light.

I am classically autistically overstimulated, so avoid all that. :lol:


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15 Jul 2017, 9:55 am

I suppose watching cat videos could be a little bit sensory seeking. They're cute to look at, make me laugh and show me there is a lot of beauty (or at least super cuteness) in the world.

I suppose watching my favorite tennis players works the same way. I enjoy seeing them excel at the thing they love the most.



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15 Jul 2017, 10:00 am

Sometimes sensory seeking is good to describe when I stim to drown out the "noise" in my head. It's not really a good descriptor when I'm trying to drown out outside sensory though.



naturalplastic
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15 Jul 2017, 10:10 am

The term, not the thing it denotes, seems to be the problem.

What it is is seeking a "counter irritant" to sensory overload. Something that autistics do seem to do via stimming.

But the phrase is confusing because it sounds like it means "thrill seeking" (like bungee jumping, or sky diving). Which is a whole different thing.



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15 Jul 2017, 10:12 am

I seek some input I.e. Touch, compression and avoid others ie sound. Sensory seeking makes sense as the term for what I do. Also to the poster who said they had lost confidence in their new therapist: self stimulation is the technical term for stimming so it's possible that they just forgot the colloquial term.



Kythe
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15 Jul 2017, 10:36 am

Well like I said, I'm not going to write him off completely for that, but it just really threw me off that he didn't know that term when he told me how much experience he had. It was only the second time I saw him and it's honestly going to take a lot more time to build up trust regardless.



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15 Jul 2017, 10:55 am

C2V wrote:
To me, stimming is more a sensory block.
A pain specialist once told me the brain can only process one primary source of pain at one time, and will focus on that source as a kind of neurological triage, and the other sources, if they exist, are dulled while that primary source is still active.
This is what stimming does for me. Provides that primary sensory input, so I can block out all the other input getting at me that I can't handle.


I would agree 100% with that description. OTOH, I take great issue with the recent redefinition of the term Stim, which in the DSM-IV was specified as a "full body movement" such as rocking, swaying, head-banging, etc. All sorts of "fidgets" have been added to the list lately that I contend are NOT classic stims, but, just as the phrase suggests "FIDGETS" and as such, do not qualify as the same sort of stress-blocker as traditional stims.

Twirling one's hair or incessantly cracking one's, knuckles is not discomfort avoidance, it is, as the definition says "sensory SEEKING, a completely different activity. These may be EXPRESSIONS of anxiety, but do nothing to dissipate that stress. I have both symptoms, and while they originate from the same cause, there's a huge difference between their functions.

My rocking and swaying are SOOTHING. My small fidgets are just that. Fidgets. They burn off some nervous energy, but they don't calm me down at all.


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ConceptuallyCurious
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15 Jul 2017, 12:37 pm

I think this quite closely relates to the hyper/hypo sensitivity differences - people with hypersensitivities are generally sensory defensive and those with hyposensitivities are sensory seeking. Of course, you can have a mix of these.

I would say that I am a sensory seeker - I get antsy if I have to stay still too long. I feel like I'm going to fall over if I have to sit up straight and am very clumsy, but if I can move quickly (skiing, roller skating) then I have excellent balance and feel more at peace with myself. I could spin and spin as a child and do headstands right after eating with no trouble at all.

I would definitely say need increased stimulation to feel relaxed and therefore am a sensory seeker. In other senses, I need to reduce stimulation.


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