What is Tactile Defensiveness?

This post is going to discuss what tactile defensiveness is and then, in a follow up post, we will discover how regular TACPAC sessions can help receivers to accept touch.

Sensory Processing Disorder and heightened sensitivity to touch

Tactile defensiveness is a sensory-modulation difficulty resulting in over-responsivity to touch stimuli. It falls under the umbrella of sensory processing difficulties that are known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). SPD can be defined as ‘difficulty in the way the brain takes in, organises and uses sensory information, causing a person to have problems interacting effectively in the everyday environment’ (Stock Kranowitz, 2005).

Fight or Flight Response

Someone with tactile defensiveness is not able to modulate their response to touch stimuli effectively and inhibit sensory messages they are receiving about that touch sensation. Being exposed to particular touch sensations can trigger a fight/flight or freeze response in those with tactile defensiveness. Touching certain textures or receiving touch (especially light touch) can be experienced as uncomfortable or physically painful.

Aversions are then developed around those touch stimuli, which can make some daily living activities difficult, for example, washing, brushing hair or teeth, getting dressed, eating. Situations where an individual with tactile defensiveness may be expected to tolerate touch from others or may be unexpectedly or inadvertently touched can also be very difficult for them to navigate.

What are the signs that someone is tactile defensive?

The signs of tactile defensiveness will vary from person to person but some common signs are:

  • Over-reacting to light touch.
  • Avoiding touching or being touched. eating certain textures.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by certain textures.
  • A dislike of touching or eating certain foods.
  • Difficulty wearing certain clothing.
  • Dislike of having hair brushed or teeth brushed or having a shower.

Individuals may experience tactile defensiveness on their whole body or just on certain parts of their body, for example, hands, feet or mouth (read more here)

Want to know more about tactile defensiveness?

Visit www.sensoryintegrationeducation.com for more information about tactile defensiveness and other topics relating to Sensory Processing Disorder. There are lots of short courses available on a range of different topics, including some free introductory courses.

Find out more!

If you want to find out more about how TACPAC can benefit those with SPD, including tactile defensiveness, sign up to one of our Essential trainings, which are either online or face-to-face, at: https://tacpac.co.uk/tacpac-online-training/.