Tactile defensiveness - Sensory Overload - Clothes sensitive

by Rick B
(Dayton Ohio)

I'm a 51 year old male that has always had trouble with sensory overload -- i.e tags in clothes, wind blowing on bare skin, clothing textures (can wear only soft clothes and even that is irritating), tags and seams on clothing, Hot weather - Irritated by Sweating (requires several showers a day in hot weather), overly sensitive to smells, jump when sleeping if talked to or touched, overly sensitive to lights and sounds at night (clock ticking, alarm clock lights, etc.). It's getting worse as I get older. I can find very little information on adults with this type of problem.

I am a fairly successful individual, college graduate with three kids that do not have this issue (although I know my dad disliked tags and rough clothes). I prefer small crowds, and end seats at events. I am constantly on edge.

Ive done the psychologist thing (very helpful in anxiety situations like giving briefings at work which terrified me (and still does but at least I can get through it), meditation, even several alternative therapies but nothing has helped with the issues I mention above.

Im very very tired of it all and would like some help if there is any to be had. Are their medications that can make your skin less sensitive to particular clothes ? that would be enough for me ? the rest I can live with ? Can anyone offer any suggestions or help?

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Jun 05, 2017
by: Anonymous

Have you researched Allodynia? Sounds like you may have it, esp. with the clothing sensitivity. Lidocaine patches may help in the areas that the clothing bother you.

Jun 02, 2017
Sensory Problems
by: Anonymous

As I'm getting older, I'm extremely sensitive to sounds, light, textures of my clothing, nylon clear threads on seams, all seams, etc. I'm also sensitive to smells. I have many allergies as well. I've been diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy even though I'm not diabetic or an alcoholic. I feel silly that these things are giving be problems.

May 23, 2017
Highly Sensitive Person
by: Heidi

Have you heard of the concept Highly Sensitive Person? I just found out about it last year and it's been so eye opening for me. Everything you described I struggle with as well; tags and course fabrics drive me nuts. As well as lights and sound when I sleep.

Anyways: I've learned it has to do with the central nervous system. HSPs are 15-20% of the population with a more sensitive central nervous system, leaving them with all sorts of sensitivities. If you get a chance, do some research on it! It may not make all the struggles go away, but understanding is so helpful and there are writings on how to manage some of this stuff.

I've learned being HSP is really hard in some ways, but there are also great benefits.

May 21, 2017
Skin sensitivity
by: Anonymous

I have issues with skin sensitivities: especially tags in the neck of clothing and fabric/ blanket textures.

I COULD believe maternal smoking might be a causal factor, however our child has the same condition and I did NOT smoke or drink during pregnancy....still do not.

Also, mosquito bites are horrible!!!... prolonged itching getting WORSE as I age....disrupting sleep.

May 16, 2017
There is a way...
by: Anonymous

This all sounds like systemic acidosis. When the kidneys stop filtering lymph fluid gets backed up and becomes stagnant. This fluid becomes acidic and begins chewing on nerves breaking them down which over time makes the skin sensitive. Too much protein in the diet is hard on kidneys as they filter out excess.

I've experimented with a RAW FOODS diet and have had positive results. This can be a temporary or permanent change but the more fruits berries and melons I eat the better I feel. If I had as sensitive skin as some of you I would definitely give this a try. It is not something medical doctors or pills and creams can treat.

Dr. Robert Morse N.D. has more information about how to help. I suggest looking him up. Fruit for the win!

Mar 21, 2017
Man made fabrics
by: Anonymous

I'm 45 and I can't touch most man-made fabrics: polyester, nylon, spandex. It seems to depend on the weave - I have less difficulty with thick Cordura than more finely woven fabrics. I have no problem with brushed polyester (fleece). I get very unpleasant shivers/goosebumps if I touch these fabrics, hear someone else touch these fabrics, and even from imagining touching them myself. Although not my favourite thing, I can wear polyester socks as long as they don't move once they're on me.

Mar 15, 2017
Sensitive skin
by: Anonymous

I have all this symptoms. I have spine issues. Maybe thats the cause. Can't stand tight clothing and some texture of materials feels scratchy and rough. Hot bothers me even when i am cooking. I feel tingly and ichy some burning. Can't sit for long cause feelings intensifies. Very annoying.

Feb 08, 2017
Glad I'm not the only one
by: Ri

I have similar issues, although reading many of the comments I don't know if mine is quite as severe.

All through my life I've had problems with things like tags, wool clothes irritating me. But my issues have more been that clothes have to sit right on me in order to feel comfortable. That I'm highly aware of if say my top had folded under on one side too much, my socks have fallen down under my trousers or such. It doesn't so much cause I dunno pain, just irritation, and I'm uncomfortable until I have straightened that item out. Certain fabrics I avoid.

I also get it if my hair is not sitting right - I feel it. Something is different on my face i.e. Pimples, or I sleep in my eyes after waking up. I'm so aware of it all.

I've been diagnosed with ADHD & apparently this hyper sensitivity is linked with that. I'm not on any medication for the ADHD. And my sensitivity has neither lessened nor increased. So I can't offer advice on how to cope sorry, just that you're not alone :)

Jan 29, 2017
clothes senstive
by: pat

Finally reading about others suffering the same thing I have suffered with from childhood has helped me realize i am not the only one. My parents thought I was just being a brat when I complain about the seams in clothing or the feel of wool against my skin. Tags and fuzz, whatever got into my clothes bugs me horribly.

In my sixties now, and tho I do not think it has worsened much, rather I have just learned to accept these irritating feelings. Also on Gabapentin and diagnosed with Fibro. Would be nice if we could just all run around naked, but then fibers in our chairs, outdoor issues would bug us.

Jan 16, 2017
Skin sensitvity to clothing, etc
by: Cheryl

I have been reading a great deal of comments here about skin sensitivity issues to clothing, among other things. I have recently, after injuring discs in my next, have developed peripheral neuropathy ... and my skin, at times, even feathers will hurt. Clothing has become an issue at this point. It has gotten better however, not entirely gone. Doctor brought up fibromyalgia as well. I am taking Neurontin/gabapentin to help lessen the skin issue. Just throwing this out there for others to possibly look into.

Jan 07, 2017
I am not the only one!
by: Joyce

I have had the same problem my entire life. First, I have to say that my sister is a mental health professional. She came home one day from work shop very excited to tell me that they have done studies on people with this condition and found a correlation between this condition and mothers who either drank or smoked, I'm not sure which, during pregnancy. It has something to do with the molecules and I believe it was alcohol, being so small and passing through to the placenta.

This happens to be an excellent possibility in my case. I believe my condition has gotten worse as I have gotten older as others have mentioned. However I think reading other comments that it could be because as we get older our skin gets dryer. I am hoping that using moisturizers will help provide some relief.

It also makes sense that I should be drinking more water. Today and taking a romantic specially difficult day, so I was thrilled to find this site. One of my main problems has been sheets and pillowcases, because my face in particular is so sensitive. Most cotton is uncomfortable for me unless it is Egyptian cotton. I assume that a Pima cotton would also work.

Some synthetic sheets also are comfortable for me. The best I ever had work silk sheets, but the bottom she wore out pretty quickly, and they were expensive so I did not replace them. They used to sell stickers that you could put over the tags in your clothing to keep them from itching, and that product works pretty well for me. I think they still sell them.

I wonder if anybody else has issues that I have feeling hair against their skin. For example, my hair seems to fall out a lot, and if it gets inside of my shirt I can feel it- just one hair I can feel. Also comma short hair from cats and dogs seems to get stuck in things like flannel sheets or microfiber robes, and to me they feel like needles. This also happens with my bra if my cat's fur gets stuck in my bra. The hairs poke me and drive me crazy.

Just for the record, I have been on a variety of antidepressants throughout my life, and I have still have the problem. Perhaps it would have been worse if I hadn't been on anti-depressants, but I'm not sure.

I am also very sensitive to light when I'm trying to sleep and sounds. I'm very easily distracted. I was diagnosed with a mild form of ADHD Kama so part of that is probably due to that condition. One of the sounds that I really cannot stand, is people who eat with their mouth open. Those little smacking sounds drive me crazy, and right now I share an office with two people who do it, so it makes me insane sometimes.

Today, I'm stuck ear plugs in my ears and pulled my hair over my ears so they couldn't see them. I am curious if anyone else with this condition has another condition that I have which is like a sensitivity or fear of certain patterns that have Kohl's or I like gaps in them kind of hard to explain. I can't remember what the clinical name for it is, but there is one. I guess it's like an anxiety feeling. Just certain patterns I can hardly stand to look at. I would be interested in hearing if anybody else has that.

Well that's all for now. Thanks to everyone who has shared their experience. It makes me feel less alone. Also, the tips are most welcome. Good luck to all of you!

Nov 27, 2016
by: Anonymous

Hello! I am also very sensitive and I am only 12 years old. I came to this site for more help but
I have a few tips for sensitivity to clothes;

~Cut off all tags
~Before buying clothes try them on to make sure that they are comfortable to wear often
~Try your hardest to ignore it if you absolutely have to wear a certain clothing item. You will eventually get used to the feeling after a while in that piece.

Hope this helps and remember that it will get better!!

Nov 26, 2016
1 jeans and a few shirts for almost 5 years
by: Mark (male 43)

I had this sensitivity of texture to clothing since child, I have socks issue but not all the time. My main problem is shopping for jeans and shirt. I cannot find any stores that sells soft jeans or pants and also shirts.

I am 43 now and the sensation is getting worse. Do you have any advise where to buy the softest material you can wear? For the longest time I thought I was the only one who had this problem. My wife is an OT and she told me about tactile defensiveness and I thought that it has something to do with my situation.

I am so thankful that I found this post and read all your comments. Is there a facebook support group for people alike?

Oct 12, 2016
Me too
by: Anonymous

I have this same issues. I have issues with clothes and also noises like the dryer when there is a zipper in it. And I have to sleep with white noise... I'm 26 year old female with a computer science degree.

Aug 14, 2016
Sensitive skin
by: Grace

I was searching for answers here on the net. I also have sensitive skin. Drives me nuts sometimes. I also have neck and spine issues. Since my osteopathic Doctor manipulates the body he did some manipulation on mine and my back. Since then i feel worse. Especially when i sit down for a long period of time. I need to keep moving an standing or i lay down for me not to feel the overwhelming skin. I believe is a nerve issue. I have also crawling feeling, tingling pins an needles.

I am planning to go to the a gonstead chiropractor since they are gentle on the back not like a regular chiropractor. Also avoiding nerve stimulating foods may help. No caffeine ,sugar, artificial sugars, flour or high carbs. Also some medications can cause nerve damage..

Aug 09, 2016
by: Joe


I have the same problem, but I think for different reasons. I suffer from eczema and winter itch. In particular, I had problems with shirts while I was going to work and going to bed. I couldn't concentrate at work and couldn't sleep at night!

It became such a big problem for me that I started researching fabric and making my own shirts. Anyways, long story short, I now run a little side business that makes shirts for people with skin problems. There are no tags, great fabric, and we sew down the seams so that they don't rub against you. Basically, I tried to design them so that there are no irritants. Its really made a difference in my life, I wear one everyday under my work clothes.

If you'd be interested in trying a sample, let me know! joe@smiling-panda.com

You can learn more at our website, www.smiling-panda.com

-Joe Paulo

Feb 08, 2016
To Tactile defensiveness and anyone else who may benefit
by: Anonymous

Hi! I wish I could offer some advice that would make all your problems go away. This is tough! For me, hydration is KEY. Drink plenty of water and decrease caffeine. A little caffeine can be good, but don't overdo it.

Have you looked into food allergies? For me, if I eat too much wheat/grain products, dairy, or sugar, my sensitivity becomes worse. Also, think about OTC medicines/supplements you take. You may be sensitive to them. Also, having a good group of friends you can talk to and hang out with is big. Sounds small, but it's important for mind and body to have relationships with people other than just family. I find that when I am having a good time with buddies and being active (this is key too), I feel a lot better.

Have you tried anti-depression meds? I'm not saying you are depressed, but they may help with the problems you mentioned. Oh, maybe try chiropractor too. If things are out of wack in the spine, it can mess with everything....plus it can't hurt! Massage is good too.

Almost forgot, essential oils can be helpful. I use Garden of Eden brand and like them a lot. Lavender for calming, lemon, grapefruit, so many great ones. Lastly, keep your skin hydrated with some good lotion. If your skin is dry it will be worse. I love Gold Bond Healing with Aloe type. Good luck!!

Jan 24, 2016
Mom of daughter with sensory problems
by: shell

My daughter has extreme sensory problems. She also has schizophrenia, diagnosed at age 7. She has had sensory problems since she was a toddler.

Now 15 yrs. later she still has the same problems only worse.Like many of you, her clothes bother her.She can't tolerate anything tight, scratchy,seams. She hates for clothes to touch her skin at all. Bedtime is terrible because all night clothes are uncomfortable.She has a belly button phobia too, so she doesn't like anything to touch her waist,like pants,shorts,skirts,underwear,it takes her forever to get comfortable in bed.

Quiet, "smooth" voices drive her nuts and make her want to take off her clothes.She also has a stuffy nose very often.It makes her scream and have to pull her hair back as tight as it will go. Help, any other ideas? Thanks.Shell

Nov 11, 2015
the joy of life
by: Sue Webb

I stumbled across your site, good to know others have the same issues. As long as I can remember I have said "I hate cloths". My mom would constantly try to keep cloths on me as a small child and was abashed one day seeing me naked standing on the porch holding my swimsuit saying "its wet" at 4. I have taken cloths off in the car on the way home from work and in the washroom just for relief.

They hurt, all of them for one reason or another. Fabric furniture irritates, I put 100% cotton muslin sheets on everything I sit on. Leather is great but way too expensive. I keep saying if I win the lotto I am going to have an entire house of leather furniture and a closet full of leather & cotton clothing! :)

Mar 24, 2015
Inflammation could be key
by: Stephanie

It's great to hear people discussing what I've always accepted but never thought about too much. Cutting labels out of clothes as soon as I get home and then still being driven crazy by the little stub left behind, holding my breath as if I was free diving down the detergent isle, hearing a wrist watch in the next room when I'm trying to sleep, being disturbed by any light while I sleep etc. etc. etc.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Alison Weidemann's comment. I have struggled for 8 years (being now at the grand age of 28 :-/) with digestive issues which resulted in a myriad of sometimes debilitating symptoms and the only thing that has ever had a substantial effect is a low sugar, yeast free diet. I thought for a long time candida overgrowth was the cause but I think it all stems from inflammation which can be caused by stress and diet.

I'm online now because I feel utterly claustrophobic and uncomfortable in my clothes and I've been swatting and shoving my partner away when he tires to touch me (and then feeling awful about it). Now that I think about it I ate something I think I've developed a food sensitivity to and I also had a more stressful than usual day.

So I do think that in my case and likely many others inflammation could be key. Things certainly don't bother me as much when I'm living healthily, in balance and sticking to the diet.

Aug 06, 2014
I sense... stress in you.
by: Anonymous

When you're overly sensitive, the usual stressful situations tend to blow the sensitivities out of proportions. Basically, when you're heavily stressed, all your usual phobias/OCDs/sensitivities get worse, because the whole system is overly excited. So, you need to address two things:

1) the sensory issue itself - by buying seamless socks, clothing with a fabric that is pleasant to touch, washing it in hypoallergenic washing liquid for babies clothing.

You might consider cosmetics:
- use body butter in the winter. I know, only females use cosmetics... and they know what they do. Use their experiences. There are cosmetics for allergic people, they don't smell feminine, and you can use your shaving water on top of it.

- avoid sun in the summer and drink carrot juice before summer; if you are overweight getting in shape even a little bit helps as well, less sweating, less skin folds.

- choose a hypoallergenic liquid soap

- figure out what kind of water you're using to wash yourself, perhaps it's time to install a filter (hard water is more irritating than soft water, and old rusty waterworks, sanitized with chlorine, really make skin itch).

- make sure if you don't have any concurrent infections and go to dermatologists. Scratches and allergies tend to get infected, and that's much worse.

- make sure if you are not becoming diabetic, because this makes life of a skin sensitive person really miserable.

- no alcohol/hot paprika/fat meat, I don't have to tell you what effects it has on sweating.

2) stress issue.

Slow down. Maybe it's your body telling you're going at a pace too fast, if it's true, then the skin is only the first signal. A weekend to unwind. A book to read. Maybe the "active rest" is too active and you need to lay on a couch in the garden or go to the forest for a walk.

Turn off TV and the news in general, sleep a lot, make time with your loved ones, and don't fret about everything being perfect. It's going to be good, you just need to allow yourself for it and not feel lazy about it.

If you are successful, I take it you have savings, which means you might be able to turn your career to a slower, but still sustainable pace.

Anyway, I'd seek a psychologist about it. Stress can make you jumpy and can make your existing issues worse.

Jul 16, 2014
We are not alone
by: Allison Wiedemann

I also have issues with sensitivity to clothing and it makes me CRAZY! I hate bras. I wear sports bras with no wire and I still can be sensitive....but only under my right boob?? Weird. I cant wear underwear. I cant wear jeans or anything tight at all. I FEEL EVERYTHING. Wrinkles on sheets, seams in clothing, tags, etc. Socks and shoes are difficult too.

Sometimes I'll change my sock multiple times until I find a pair that 'fit right'. This is worse some days more than others. I've tried to figure this out for years. Here's what I found out: it seems to be an inflammation issue. When I feel bloated it's worse. This is usually from eating inflammatory foods. When I cut out sugars, grains (except whole grain brown rice, quinoa and millet), ALCOHOL, gluten, yeast, preservatives, corn, soy, msg, I seem to do better. I HIGHLY recommend this. I'm convinced this will help with at least some of your symptoms!! Trust me on this one. Just try it for a month and you'll see you feel better.

For me alcohol, gluten, and sugar are the main ones. Also, stay hydrated. When your body is even a little bit dehydrated it makes your skin sensitive and your body tissues inflamed, causing discomfort. Look up the anti-inflammatory diet.

Eating foods that are anti-inflammatory helps a lot too. Foods such as: the 'good fats' in nuts and seeds (non-salted, raw), avocados, coconut oils (you should only use coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil....the vegetable oils cause inflammation), fatty fish such as salmon, veggies (most of your diet should be veggies...especially the leafy greens such as spinach and kale).

Avoid alcohol. Very inflammatory because it turns into sugar in your body AND it's dehydrating. Watch caffeine intake. Some people are sensitive to food coloring to watch that too. Do a food diary and try to figure out if certain foods stimulate sensitivity. But REALLY, try this diet. You wont be sorry!!

Dec 11, 2013
no more itch
by: Comfy in Cali


I'm a 50 yo female. Had this problem all my life until about three years ago when I quit using commercial cleansers. Search the internet for "non-toxic cleansers" I felt better almost immediately upon washing the chemicals out of my sheets and clothes.

Good luck to you all.

Apr 27, 2013
by: Anonymous

I am 56 and have had the same sensitivity for 7 years, as all of you have discussed. I wear my satin pajama bottoms inside-out because the I can't stand the seams, either. I have to have them on under any of my pants II have tried everything that I have seen, but not Zoloft. Is there anything else, I can try?

Dec 27, 2012
47 year old sensory overload
by: jayne

Hello all,

We are not alone are we? I too have always had sensitive skin to tags and scratchy seams. I will scratch miserably and around the house, i wear my clothes inside out (except for jeans of course). My skin becomes irritated very fast.

I am also sensitive to loud noises/voices, as well as bright lights, and strong perfumes. I would love to design a line of comfortable clothing that doesn't look like 'sweats'. I love to dress nice, however most clothing is scratchy and the seams are terrible. I've looked up seamless clothing, however there isnt much to choose from...a few tanks and spandex looking tights as well as body hugging slip-like dresses.

Ahhh well, I would never take drugs for this problem. I think drugs are over rated and the side effects can be scary. Just wanted to share the distress of the combined problems, so others can relate, without thinking they are solo. This isn't limited to young kids!

Jul 31, 2011
personal expeirience
by: rae

hi, im rae and im also 18. i have unbelievably been dealing with this since i was 5. i remember my mom crying because i would stop wearing jeans and underwear in kindergarten.

by middle school, i could only wear cotton and elastic pants. now that doesnt even work for me. i wear straight up sweatpants and thin cotton shirts only. i always thought i was a freak.

we passed it off in 9th grade as OCD and i went to therapy for it (tho it did nothing for me.) i also suffer from growth hormone deficiency. im only 4'6. its soo hard to find comfy clothes in juniors. its such an awkward phase to be stuck forever at. :/ but i understand what your going through.

Sep 26, 2009
Sensory defensivness
by: Anonymous

Don't take drugs for this! Learn self-regulation.
Brainwave Training (EEG biofeedback) really works.

Sep 25, 2009
SAme here
by: Anonymous

I am a 49 year old woman and I can only wear cotton clothing. It has gotten worse instead of better as I've gotten older. Basically now I only wear one brand of shirt. I hate the new pima cotton that is softer and more clingy. I can not even touch polyester and other stretchy, clingy material. When I sleep at night I have to smooth out wrinkles and have all the nightwear just right. I am also very sensitive to noises, smells (hate perfume and cigars!!) and I'm a very picky eater. I'm tired of it all too and wish I could just be "normal".

Sep 09, 2009
Tactile defensive sensory processing disorder
by: Mom of CHD/sensory child

My 7yr old has the problem with her clothing feeling painful when she first gets dressed. It started when she started preschool at age 4 and has gotten a little worse each year. It gets harder every year to find clothes for her and every morning is a struggle to get her dressed. She has been getting Occupational Therapy for it for the duration and has tried the brush therapy mentioned to you before to no avail.

I have heard from my doctor of another girl in my area who had this problem and once she was put on Zoloft the sensitivity disappeared. I have not tried that option yet since my daughter has a congenital heart defect but am also looking for other treatment options since OT is not helping.

Good luck in your search for relief. I can see in my daughter what a struggle it is to deal with. God Bless.

Sep 02, 2009
sensory overload
by: Kat

Adults and children with sensory overload are usually neurologically over-aroused. Neurofeedback (brainwave training)helps enormously with this.
Google this or get info, see videos, find a practitioner at eeginfo.com

Aug 28, 2009
wish I could help
by: Luna

You sound like my son who is 18 and I am worried it will always be this way for him. There is an approach that I did try once and it seemed to help and it required one of those hospital brushes brushing the skin every hour for a long time for quite a few days. It seemed to calm my son eventually, except we tried it when he was around 14 and really defensive to touch so it was very hard. I think it was called Wilbarger or something like that..I will look for the technique and write back. Maybe see an OT..occupational therapist

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