What Is Interoception?

What is Interoception? Most of us have heard of the five basic senses, touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing, but only in recent years for many has the word interoception come to our attention.

Interoception is the 8th sensory sense that helps you feel what’s going on inside your body and to understand what those feelings mean.

what-is-interoception

Interoception helps us to know what our internal signals/feelings mean, for example- you will know if you need to use the bathroom, if your heart beats fast, when you feel hungry, thirsty, hot or cold. Your ability to pick up on and understand these internal body sensations/feelings is because of interoception.

Interoception and Toilet Training

Many autistic children have sensory processing differences and this may mean for them, that they will have difficulty making sense (processing) their interoceptive sensory information. Some children struggle to know when they need the toilet or if their bladder is full, and for these children it may mean frequent accidents or not making it to he toilet until it is too late.

interoception and toilet training

Interoception and Feelings

For autistic children, the ability to recognise their feelings/emotions can be more difficult if they struggle with their interoceptive sensory processing. They may have difficulties in understanding what their body cues are telling them with regard to their emotions, and this difficulty to attune can lead to many autistic children becoming distressed, overwhelmed and often, misunderstood by society.

Interoception and Self Regulation

Difficulties with interoception means self regulation can also be a challenge for autistic children. For example as an autistic individual, I cannot tell if I am thirsty or hungry and will often become faint before I am aware that I need to eat or drink, so I have to set alarms to remind me.

If you are feeling annoyed or frustrated you may not be able to understand what you are feeling or regulate your responses. This can lead to meltdowns and overwhelm for autistic individuals. The individual may not be able to identify the actual reasoning or source of their unease/discomfort.

what-is-interoception
Image Credit: https://kids.frontiersin.org/

Interoceptive awareness can be described as the awareness of the inside of your body, including heart rate and breathing, combined with an awareness of emotions. – New research has shown that there is a definite link between interoceptive awareness and emotions as they relate to overall regulation, complex thinking, and sense of self.

Cara N. KOSCINSKI, MOT, OTR/L

www.thepocketot.com

For more information on the eight sensory system, check out my posts, linked below.

References:

  • Craig, A. D. 2002. How do you feel? Interoception: the sense of the physiological condition of the body. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 3:655–66. doi: 10.1038/nrn894
  • Khalsa, S. S., Adolphs, R., Cameron, O. G., Critchley, H. D., Davenport, P. W., Feinstein, J. S., et al. 2018. Interoception and mental health: a roadmap. Biol. Psychiatry Cogn. Neurosci. Neuroimaging 3:501–13. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2017.12.004
  • Murphy, J., Catmur, C., and Bird, G. 2019. Classifying individual differences in interoception: implications for the measurement of interoceptive awareness. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 26:1467–71. doi: 10.3758/s13423-019-01632-7

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