Hyper-Awareness vs. Hypochondria

So, I had my monthly visit to my psychologist today, and we were talking about some of the posts I’ve made since my last visit (Feb. 15), including the hypochondria one. What she said was that she thinks it’s not hypochondria – which she considers to be a serious ailment where, to quote her, “you have a tic in your eye and think you’re going blind, or you have a pain in the back of your head and think you have a brain tumour” – but a hyper-awareness of physical sensations. She says that a number of the people on the spectrum that she’s dealt with (not all, but definitely most) have that hyper-awareness.

She also gave two more examples.

She has occasional migraines; she has an acquaintance who gets frequent ones, that present much more severely. But the acquaintance can still do things like make dinner while dealing with the migraines, while she has to be in bed, in a dark room, with white noise going, and no touching.

Another example, that she gave to a parent of someone on the spectrum, involved stomachaches. She has stomachaches semi-frequently, but can still go through an ordinary day with one, seeing her patients, going to the grocery store, etc. The girl on the spectrum has so much of her focus taken up by the sensation that she can’t do anything.

That’s the kind of thing she means by “hyper-awareness”. She said the other psychologist I will be going to see (the one trained in dealing with people on the spectrum) can probably explain it a bit better, but I managed to understand what she meant. Because of our sensory focus, dealing with sensations – either resulting from that hyper-sensitivity or not – takes up a lot of our attention, and we tend to feel them more intensely. So we tend to have a heightened sensitivity of and a lower tolerance for physical sensations.

Again, this doesn’t apply to everyone on the spectrum. We’re all individuals; certainly I tend to seek out touch, whereas a number of the other people on the spectrum I know / have met online have issues with touch, especially light touches. Still, I seem to be demonstrating that hyper-awareness, especially with regards to my sensory issues (see Sensory Overload Fun (Not!) and Hypochondria: Medical Students Syndrome? for examples).

It’s kind of a relief to have something that not only makes sense (and removes that hated word – I don’t care about the medical definition of hypochondria, as a child I believed that it meant that one was malingering, and the impression stuck), but fits in with my understanding of the Sensory Perception Disorder part of ASD. If we do have those holes in our sensory filters, it only makes sense that they apply to the sensations we feel from our physical body as well. And that’s even more sensations that allistics don’t get flooding our brain, demanding attention, which drains energy / spoons from us, which results in overload and fatigue, and… hey, there’s another whirlpool of positive reinforcement approaching!

So, what’s happening with me? I suspect (even more so now that I’ve talked to my psychologist and heard her theory regarding hyper-awareness) that I’ve finally stopped ignoring and avoiding the direct consequences of sensory stimulation. In the past, I would go into a situation like the supermarket / grocery store in Hypochondria, and come out apparently fine (can anyone say, “passing for allistic”? [/end sarcasm]) – and two days later come down with a serious tension headache or feel unwell for apparently no reason. Now, I think that I’m paying more attention to the source of those events, and so I’m getting the direct effects, the ones that I previously avoided, pushed to one side, and so suffered from worse later.

Well, that’s my opinion. Have any of the rest of you had some experience with this hyper-awareness; something that allistics would have a tendency to ignore or not react to as badly, knocks you out for the count? I’m curious to see how many of you have, I admit.

‘Later!

😉 tagAught

4 thoughts on “Hyper-Awareness vs. Hypochondria

  1. hi, 3 months ago when i had vertigo, i really scared and then became anxiety and now the fear of anxiety make me feel sensitive to the anxiety sensations,i keep scanning my body everyday, and now became so detach and i could not easily switch off from one symptoms to another.while now i am not fear any more but my whole body always tense from head to toes.it just take a turn from one part of the body to another sometimes 2 or three part of the body can be tense at the same time.it very frustrating and uncomfortable.and i have hyperawareness o everythng my body and muscle feel.everyday is a strggle for me to escape from tis.even distracting my mind with actvities is never really work.just a little bit. i dont know what to do.feel so depressed,meaningless,not interest in life anymore.always condemn myself if i could solve this early maybe easy to solve.now feels like too late.no one can help me.might need phscology.but i dont think they can hhelp with my strong mind.is there anyone of you have same experience with me? i feel i am the only one that weird.

    • Hey there, I have felt this way as well. Since my anxiety and attacks have started I am hyperaware of the way my muscles feel. I can’t distract myself from it and feel like i feel every nerve sensation, soreness, tension, and weird small feelings all over my body. I was told this was normal for anxiety. Only fixing the general anxiety or anxiety meds can help with that, I find, unless you are able to relax yourself enough and that’ll go with it.

      • hi rosie, i’ve been to physcolog just a month ago when my anxiety already at the worst point.i practice acceptance, help little bit only.but not able to go back to normal. because now my muscle is so wired up is similar to fybromalgya/central nervous sensitivity.but the difference is people with fybro didn’t know that their mind caused it. but me i know my mind caused it. but it just so hard to be normal again.i can feel normal only few minutes then all these,tight,weird feelings start to creep in.even in night time i can be hard to breath or clench my teeth, or neck and throat spasm.,head tension,eye floating,sore gum, ibs,tight leg,etc.my God this is my fault why i have to fear at the first time. this stupid anxiety mind i called it devil really bring my life into hell.i wish i know this mental illness before.in australia now the goverent start to ring the mental illness picture to the public so the public be aware n seeking help.i didt know what is that feeling called from the beginnning and too shy and fear to ask for help and here i am become suffer for my whole life.i try to pray God still give me the courage to live.thank you for your reply.how do you feel right now, are you feeling better?back to normal again?

        • Im late to the party, but I just wanted to say that I just had this exact scenario happen to me and it’s nice to feel that I’m not alone. Hope you are well!

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