Hypersensitivity to touch

tactile defensiveness

Association with the cutaneous sense

Tactile defensiveness or hypersensitivity to touch is a disorder that affects both children and adults no matter gender or race. It is the process of avoiding touching because of fear. This fear can stem from the touch or contact from merely everything from the vibrating of toys, affection from a kiss or hug, certain clothing textures, texturized bedding sheets, the bare feet touching grass or any environmental surface to even the slight feeling of wind blowing on that individual’s bare skin. How this relates to our cutaneous sense is that our cutaneous receptors are sensory receptors mainly located in the dermis or epidermis which is the inner and outer layer of our skin. Thus entire system is responsible for sensations that we feel such as hot or cold. Cutaneous Senses include nearly everything that we feel through our skin, whether it be temperature, texture or pain. Tactile defensiveness directly links to our cutaneous sense rather than any other sense is because sensitive to touch and the defensiveness makes that awkward that can even sometimes result in noxious or even pain. According to (Goldstein, 2014 pg. 344) most of us already have regions with high acuity such as fingers and lips that represent larger areas on the cortex but with this disorders it seems to make the entire body a high acuity area.

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Affects in normal sensation and perception and treatments

When a person with tactile defensiveness occurs an object or circumstance were they become over fearful of the activity that they are engaging in the "fight-or-flight" response takes over which is to either overly protect themselves at any cost or quickly flee from the situation all together. What happens in the brain when tactile defensiveness occurs is that when the person is touched whether by another person or object the brain is flooded and overloaded with sensory input that they cannot process it all which results in their response being disorganized and very emotional (Packer, 2009). How tactile defensiveness affects normal sensation and perception is that it intensives or magnifies the normal feeling a person may have. Imagine the feeling of going outside a feeling a brisk winter breeze and how you felt, well a person that is experiencing or diagnosed with tactile defensiveness feels that same brisk breeze but ten times the chill. Fortunately that are researched treatments that can help with the coping of this disorder. The best treatment that I researched available to assist with tactile defensiveness is The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol. According to the (National Autism Resources, 2015) the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol is a therapy program designed to reduce sensory or tactile defensiveness. Even though the person fears resist being touched this program decreases the sensory defensiveness and anxiety in patients when administered correctly. It has also been concluded that results range from improved ability to transition between daily activities as well as improved attention span and decreased fear or discomfort of being touched (National Autism Resources, 2015). And at the end of the day people just want to know that they are understood.


Pacher, L.E (2009). Overview of Sensory Defensiveness and Sensory Dysregulation. Retrieved from http://www.tourettesyndrome.net/disorders/sensory-defensiveness-or-sensory-dysregulation/overview-of-sensory-defensiveness/


Goldstein, E. (2014). Sensation and perception (Ninth Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage.


National Autism Resources (2015). The Wilbarger Protocol: Helping People Sensitive to Touch. National Autism Resources. Retrieved from http://www.nationalautismresources.com/wilbarger-protocol.html