Interoception: your 8th sense
Interoception is your 8th sense and it is how you can feel what’s going on inside of your body things like:
💖 Sexual Arousal
🥤Thirst or Hunger
❄️ Your body temperature
🚽 When you have to pee or poo
It also includes physiological feelings related to EMOTIONS like:
-Pit of your stomach nervous
Interoception functions like if your organs and muscles have a little sensors and they can feel things and send messages to the brain so your brain can regulate and know what to do. For example, when your bladder gets full it sends a signal to your brain that you need to find a bathroom.
What happens when your sense of Interoception isn’t so strong or is really strong or isn’t working correctly?
This can make it very difficult to regulate your body for example you might hold your pee or poo too long or wait till you’re extremely hungry before you eat.
For a lot of kiddos (and adults!) an over or under responsive interoception reaction can look like:
-Not choosing appropriate clothing (i.e. tank top and flip flops in below freezing weather)
-Holding their pee until they cannot control
-Not knowing when they are hungry/thirsty/full and over/under eating or becoming dehydrated.
While over or under responsiveness to internal signals can cause barriers to function, there are things you can do to help build or compensate for this sense.
Here are a few ideas:
Use visuals like 1-10 scales or pictures of a feeling to help create a picture of what a sensation feels like.
Model language and expression to demonstrate how you feel when you're hungry, full, hot, or have to use the bathroom.
Incorporate external cues such as checking the weather to determine clothing choice or using timed bathroom trips.
💡Build awareness around feelings and responses
📊 Use external feedback like pain charts, fullness charts, and water trackers
🧘♂️Meditate and use mindfulness techniques to get in touch with your internal systems
🔦implement a "body scan" several times a day when you pay close attention to your body parts and describe how they feel.
Interoception is integral to healthy bowel and bladder function. This is why I have a whole section dedicated to this topic in my upcoming bowel and bladder course. Get on the course wait list here
If you think your child may have issues to interoception or sensory processing, reach out to your doctor. You may want to request an occupational therapy referral. Occupational therapists have special training to help people with sensory processing and daily routines.