What is our interoceptive system?
Interoceptive is often referred to as the “hidden” sense. Interoceptive is the way our bodies process internal signals such as hunger cues or when you have to use the restroom. The goal of interoceptive signals is ultimately to achieve homeostasis or the body’s state of balance. When our bodies are able to appropriately process our interoceptive signals, it allows us to trust our body’s signals.
Interoceptive functionally impacts:
Meaningful participation in day-to-day activities
When the body is unable to appropriately process interoceptive signals, the mind to body connection is broken. Whether your child is hypersensitive to interoceptive signals or is hyposensitive to interoceptive signals, this can affect their participation in meaningful activities.
Hypersensitivity to interoceptive signals means that you can feel the slightest body signal. Anxiety is often associated with hypersensitivity to interoceptive and may cause your kid to withdraw or become defensive.
Hyposensitivity to interoceptive signals means you have a difficult time feeling your body signals. Your child may not feel hunger cues until they are starving or know they need to use the restroom until it is too late. These kids tend to seek out excessive amounts of sensory input in an attempt for self-regulation.
Imagine you are sitting in class trying to pay attention but your tummy starts to feel a little funny, you are unsure if you are hungry or need to use the restroom. You don’t know what to do about the feeling so you try to just ignore it. The feeling is uncomfortable and won't go away, you start to feel anxious and it is all you can think about. Instead of being able to advocate for what you need, you go through class with the uncomfortable feeling, not hearing a word your teacher said. Later that evening, your parents are upset that you do not know how to do your homework and get you in trouble for not paying attention in class.
Interoceptive and Big Emotions?
Difficulties with interoceptive signal processing can make it difficult to process emotions we are feeling, for example, feeling our cheeks flush when we are angry or our hearts race when we feel anxious or overwhelmed. If you are unable to distinguish what you are feeling, it will be difficult to express to others your current emotional state, why, and what you need at that moment. This dysregulation can lead to emotional outbursts of uncontrollable crying, yelling, or other big reactions.
Common Red Flags for Interoceptive System Dysfunction:
Always asking for food or water or never feeling hungry/thirsty
Unexpected strong emotional reactions
Wetting the bed/pants
Difficulties with sleeping
Here are some great tools:
Body Sock: This is a great tool to increase body awareness and can be calming.
Mindfulness Breathing Mazes: Teaches breathing strategies with an added tactile component to help with emotional regulation. This is a great tool for a calm down corner!
Body Awareness Cards: These yoga cards incorporate heavy work and muscle jobs to increase body awareness.
Meditation: Helps to relieve anxiousness and increase self awareness.