Sensory Processing Difficulties and Interpersonal Relationships in Adults: An Exploratory Study
Nili Ben-Avi, Moshe Almagor, Batya Engel-Yeger
DOI: 10.4236/psych.2012.31012   PDF   HTML     8,070 Downloads   15,673 Views   Citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between sensory processing difficulties (SPD) which refers to detection, modulation and response to sensory input and interpersonal relationships. 139 students participated in the study and completed two self report questionnaires: The Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile measuring sensory processing abilities as expressed in daily living and the Hebrew version of the MMPI-2. The results demonstrated strong associations between different patterns of SPD and a wide range of symptomathology, including anxiety, somatization, distress, and demoralization, difficu- lties in social interactions, family, work and therapeutic relationships. The findings of this study indicate that extreme sensory processing patterns are strongly related to distress and psychological difficulties. Therefore, it is recommended that clinical therapists relate to sensory processing as part of their dynamic conceptualization of patients’ difficulties. This also emphasizes the significance of interdisciplinary treatment that takes sensory processing into consideration in order to create an intervention program that considers the person’s specific sensory needs and their relationship with personality.

Share and Cite:

Ben-Avi, N. , Almagor, M. & Engel-Yeger, B. (2012). Sensory Processing Difficulties and Interpersonal Relationships in Adults: An Exploratory Study. Psychology, 3, 70-77. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.31012.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Aron, E. N., & Aron, A. (1997). Sensory-processing sensitivity and its relation to introversion and emotionality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 345-368. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.2.345
[2] Aron, E. N., Aron, A., & Davies, K. M. (2005). Adult shyness: The interaction of temperamental sensitivity and an adverse childhood environment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 181- 197. doi:10.1177/0146167204271419
[3] Almagor, M. (2005). The Hebrew Minnesota multiphase personality inventory-2. Jerusalem, Israel: Psych-Tech. (In Hebrew).
[4] Almagor, M., & Koren, D. (2001). The adequacy of the MMPI-2 harris-lingoes subscales: A cross-cultural factor analytic study of scales D, Hy, Pd, Sc and Ma. Psychological Assessment, 13, 199-215. doi:10.1037//1040-3590.13.2.199
[5] Ben-Porath, Y., & Tellegen, A. (2008). MMPI-2 RF? (minnesota multiphasic personality inventory-2 restructured form?). Pearson Assessment Systems, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
[6] Ben-Porath, Y. S., & Tellegen, A. (2008). Empirical correlates of the MMPI-2 restructured clinical (RC) scales in mental health, forensic, and non-clinical settings: An introduction. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90, 119-121. doi:10.1080/00223890701845120
[7] Brown, C., & Dunn, W. (2002). Adolescent/adult sensory profile. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.
[8] Butcher, J. N., Dahlstrom, W. G., Graham, J. R., Tellegen, A. & Kae- mmer, B. (1989). Manual for the restandardized Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory: MMPI-2. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
[9] Cermak, S. A. (1998). The relationship between attention deficit and sensory integration disorders (Part Ι). Sensory Integration: Special Interest Section, 11, 1-2.
[10] Cheng, M., & Boggett-Carsjens, J. (2005). Consider sensory processing disorders in the explosive child: Case report and review. The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review, 14, 44-48.
[11] Chutroo, B. (2007). The drive to be whole: A developmental model inspired by Paul Schilder and Lauretta Bender in support of holistic treatment strategies. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 34, 409-419. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2007.08.006
[12] Crane, L., Goddard, L., & Pring, L. (2009). Sensory processing in adults with autism spectrum disorders. Autism, 13, 215-228. doi:10.1177/1362361309103794
[13] Diehem, R., & Armatas, C. (2004). Surfing: an avenue for socially ac- ceptable risk-taking, satisfying needs for sensation seeking and ex- perience seeking. Personality and Individual differences, 36, 663- 677.
[14] Dunn, W. (1997). The impact of sensory processing abilities on the daily lives of young children and their families. Infants and Young Children, 9, 23-35. doi:10.1097/00001163-199704000-00005
[15] Dunn, W. (1999). Sensory profile. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.
[16] Dunn, W. (2001). The sensations of everyday life: Empirical, theoretical, and pragmatic considerations. 2001 Eleanor Clarke Slagle lecture. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55, 608-620. doi:10.5014/ajot.55.6.608
[17] Engel-Yeger, B., and Dunn, W. (2011a). The relationship between sensory processing difficulties and anxiety level of healthy adults. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74, 210-216. doi:10.4276/030802211X13046730116407
[18] Engel-Yeger, B., and Dunn, W. (2011b). Exploring the relationship be- tween affect and sensory processing patterns in adults. British Jour- nal of Occupational Therapy, 74, 456-464. doi:10.4276/030802211X13182481841868
[19] Eysenck, H. J. (1967). The biological basis of personality (100-117). Springfield, IL: Thomas.
[20] Franques, P., Auriacombe, M., Piquemal, E., Verger, M., Brisseau- Gi- menez, S., Grabot, D., & Tignol, J. (2003). Sensation seeking as a common factor in opioid dependent subjects and high risk sport practicing subjects: A cross sectional study. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 69, 121-126.
[21] Graham, J. (2005). MMPI-2: Assessing personality and psychopatho- logy (188-214). New York: Oxford University Press.
[22] Greene, R. L. (2010). The MMPI-2/MMPI-2-RF: An interpretive ma- nual (3rd ed.). New-Jersey: Prentice Hall.
[23] Kandel, E. R. (1991). Cellular mechanisms of learning and the biological basis of individuality. In E. R. Kandel, J. H. Schwartz, & T. M. Jessell (Eds.), Principles of Neural Science (3rd ed., pp 1009-1031). East Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lange.
[24] Kinnealey, M., & Fuiek, M. (1999). The relationship between sensory defensiveness, anxiety, depression, and perception of pain in adults. Occupational Therapy International, 6, 195-206. doi:10.1002/oti.97
[25] Liss, M., Mailloux, J., & Erchull, M. J. (2008). The relationship be- tween sensory processing sensitivity, alexithymia, autism, depression, and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 255-259. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.04.009
[26] Liss, M., Timmel, L., Baxley, K., & Killingsworth, P. (2005). Sensory processing sensitivity and its relation to parental bonding, anxiety, and depression. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 1429- 1439. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2005.05.007
[27] McKinley, J. C., & Hathaway, S. R. (1944). The minnesota multiphasic personality inventory, V: Hysteria, hypomania, and psychopathic deviate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 28, 153-174. doi:10.1037/h0059245
[28] Miller, L. J., Anzalone, M. E., Lane, S. J., Cermak, S. A., & Osren, E. T. (2007). Concept evolution in sensory integration: A proposed noso- logy for diagnosis. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61, 135-140. doi:10.5014/ajot.61.2.135
[29] Parush, S., Engel-Yeger, B., & Ben-Sason, A. (2006). Hebrew transla- tion of the adolescent/adult sensory profile. Jerusalem: The School of Occupational Therapy, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (In Hebrew).
[30] Royeen, B. C. (1989). Touch inventory for elementary school-aged children. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 17, 155-159.
[31] Royeen, C. B., & Lane, S. J. (1991). Tactile processing and sensory defensiveness. In A. Fisher, G., Murray, E. A., & Bundy A. C. (Eds.), Sensory Integration: Theory and Practice (pp. 108-136). Philadelphia: F. A. Davis.
[32] Shoam, A., Rose, G. M., & Kahle, L. R. 1998). Marketing of risky sports: From intention to action. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 26, 307-321.
[33] Simeonsson, R. J., Leonardi, M., Lollar, D., Bjorck-Akesson, E., Hollenweger, J., & Martinuzzi, A. (2003). Applying the international classification of functioning, disability and health (ICF) to measure childhood disability. Disability and Rehabilitation, 25, 602-610. doi:10.1080/0963828031000137117
[34] Sutker, P. B., Archer, R. P., & Allain, A. N. (1978). Drug abuse patterns, personality characteristics, and relationships with sex, race, and sensation seeking. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 46, 1374-1378. doi:10.1037//0022-006X.46.6.1374
[35] Tal-Saban, M., Yochman, A. and Parush, S. (2002). Validity and reliability of the sensory profile in an Israeli population of children aged 3-6 years old. The Israel Journal of Occupational Therapy, 11, 33-48. (In Hebrew.)
[36] Tellegen, A., Ben-Porath, Y. S., McNulty, J. L., Arbisi, P. A., Graham, J. R.,& Kaemmer, B. (2003). MMPI-2 restructured clinical (RC) scales: Development, validation, and interpretation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
[37] Ward, L. C., & Perry, M. S. (1998), Measurement of Social Introversion by the MMPI-2. Journal of Personality Assessment, 70, 171-182.
[38] Wilbarger, P., & Wilbarger, J. L. (1991). Sensory defensiveness in children aged 2-12. An intervention guide for parents and other caretakers. Santa Barbara: Avanti Educational Programs.
[39] Zuckerman, M., Bone, R. N., Neary, R., Mangelsdorff, D., & Brustman, B. (1972). What is the sensation seeker? Personality trait and experience correlates of the sensation seeking scales. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 39, 308-321. doi:10.1037/h0033398
[40] Zuckerman, M., & Link, K. (1968). Construct validity for the sensation seeking scale. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 32, 420-426. doi:10.1037/h0026047

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.