The Connection Between Ultra-sensitivity and LD/ADD


Part One – The Connection between Ultra-sensitivity and LD/ADD

Part Two – The Affects of Ultra-sensitivity on Our Lives

Part Three – The Gifts of Ultra-sensitivity (In Progress)

Websites and Links – View other websites about Ultra-sensitivity

Part One – The Connection between Ultra-sensitivity and LD/ADD

By Elizabeth Bogod

Do you sometimes feel that you unusually overreact to everyday situations?

For instance, do you find yourself easily frustrated, moved to tears, overwhelmed while others in the same situation seem to be unaffected? 

Do you think of yourself as a sensitive person?  

Well, you may have good reason to think so. There is some evidence to back up the fact that people with learning disabilities and/or Attention Deficit Disorder are typically more prone to sensitivity and, for sure, the topic of oversensitivity comes up frequently In IADA support groups.

Being ultra-sensitive is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us like to think of ourselves as being caring, thoughtful, sensitive folk, and LD/ADD hyper-sensitivity may even be a strength, but I will talk about this in a later newsletter.

To start, I want to clarify exactly what is meant by the term Highly Sensitive Person. The term highly sensitive person was first introduced into pop psychology by Dr. Elaine Aron, author of  The Highly Sensitive Person – How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.  

Dr. Aron describing persons with this characteristic as having an extremely sensitive nervous system. In other words, she contends highly sensitive people are biologically more sensitive to external stimuli such as glaring lights, strong odors, and clutter, not just emotional stimuli (Aron, 1999).

Most of us only think of the academic difficulties associated with LD and ADD, but if Dr. Aron’s theory holds good, then ultra-sensitivity will likely affect every aspect of our lives including all aspects of daily living,  family, and work, and school.

It is important to note that being highly sensitive does not mean you have a disorder. It is rather a characteristic or personality trait. Unfortunately, no research exists to link this particular theory to LD or ADD. However, Dr. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., with her concept of sensory integration, does present significant evidence of a link between ultra-sensitivity and LD/ADD (Sensory Integration International: FAQ).

This theory describes dysfunction in processing information through the senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing). Some signs of this sensory integration dysfunction include:

  • Oversensitivity to touch movement, sights, or sounds
  • Distractibility
  • Hypo or Hyperactivity
  • Complaints about how clothes feel – especially tags, socks, and shoes
  • Difficulty making transitions from one situation to another
  • Inability to unwind or calm self
  • Impulsivity
  • Delays in speech, language, or motor skills
  • Delays in academic achievement
  • Frequent Mood Changes

Does any of the above sound familiar to you?  Research indicates that up to 70% of children with learning problems experience characteristics of this sort (Sensory Integration International: FAQ). So it is conceivable that LD/ADD adults are more neurologically susceptible to being highly sensitive individuals.

So what does this research mean for you? It means that you can take comfort in knowing that high sensitivity is NOT a personality flaw. It means that it may help you come to terms accuse you of being “too sensitive”, “overly emotional”, “weak”, or “thin-skinned”.  

Comments like these may make you feel bad about yourself or shamed into change but knowing the reasons for the source of your hyper-sensitivity – that it is the result of the way your central nervous system copes with stimuli – may help you to cope with people who criticize you because they do not understand your sensitivities.

More importantly, though, you are beginning to understand a new side of your LD/ADD.  In the next News Letter, you will find out about the gifts of being highly sensitive and more!

Do you have any thoughts or experiences to share on the topic of ultra-sensitivity and LD/ADD?  Send your comments to our mailing address or email us at


Aron, Elaine. The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You. Broadway Books, 1999.

Sensory Integration International, Frequently Asked Questions. Available at:

Part Two – The Affects of Ultra-sensitivity on Our Lives by Liz Bogod

The previous newsletter discussed the connection between ultra-sensitivity and LD/ADD. We now explore this connection further and take a deeper look at the effects of ultra-sensitivity on our lives. 

Having LD/ADD may mean you are more sensitive than the average individual. Many definitions of LD and ADD include emotional instability as a defining characteristic. Throughout history, gifted people such as artists, writers, and musicians have demonstrated ultra-sensitive characteristics.

Given the fact that so many people with LD and/or ADD are, in fact, creatively and intellectually gifted, it follows that they, too, are likely to be highly sensitive individuals.

Dabrowski, a psychiatrist who specializes in giftedness, proposes five areas of extreme sensitivity in gifted individuals which he terms as over-excitabilities. You may recognize some of the following areas in yourself:

Psychomotor – Need for extreme physical activity, movement, and sports activity

Hyperactivity, restlessness; inability to quell non-stop inner thought processes  (often cause of sleeping problems); highly pronounced gesturing, fast-talking

Sensual – Heightened sensory awareness

Over-reaction to sensory input (bad smells, bright lights, loud noises, etc); heightened tactile sensitivity (e.g. to textured fabrics); finds some sensory input intolerable and may need to leave the location of stimuli

Imaginational – Thinks and lives in fantasy worlds

The poets, the fantasizers, the space cadets of this world; use metaphorical speech; daydreams; remembers, and reacts strongly to night dreams

Intellectual – A heightened response to intellectual questions and problems

Intense focus on a particular topic, difficulty diverting away from topic (which may interfere with the development of social relationships); often a highly ethical, moral topic requiring sustained analytical thinking abilities; difficulty letting go of the world’s problems without continual questioning

Emotional  – Heightened emotional reactions and attachments to people

Emotions experienced in extremes; need to develop strong emotional attachments; self-examination; the natural ability for empathy and compassion; often perceive others as not caring enough; susceptibility to depression and anxiety

Sound Familiar? Share your experiences:

Next Newsletter: The Gifts of Ultra-Sensitivity!


Sharon Lind, Overexcitability and the Gifted. SENG Newsletter, May 2001 
Available at:

Part Three – The Gifts of Ultra-sensitivity 

(In Progress)

Websites and Links – Elaine Arons Highly Sensitive Person website to accompany the book. The Center for Highly Sensitive People – Roger Easterbrook’s site offering support and counseling for Highly Sensitive People as named and defined by the research of Dr. Elaine Aron Sensory Integration Resource Center – Sensory Integration International – S.E.N.G – A non-profit organization supporting the needs of gifted individuals – Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page. Also, see Hoagies Sensitivity Page for more about this topic.