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Autism and Hyper-Sensitive “Creepy Crawly Days”

Hyper-Reactivity to Sensory Input

ants-in-pantsToday has been on of those days; those days that my senses are so hyped-up every little touch or sensation drives me out of my mind. There seems to be no rhythm or rhyme to when this occurs. I am sensitive all the time, every day, and every moment, but some days are just worse.

It began in the middle of the night, or maybe in the early twilight hours while hubby was getting ready for work in the morning. I started to toss and turn and feel all the little piles on the sheets, and my mind woke up thinking, “Damn it, I need new sheets.”

I fell back to sleep only to start feeling like I was being eaten alive. I snatched the covers back, checked my legs, hunted the bed for the hidden “bugs” that were “biting” me, and found—you guessed it—nothing! Yes, that is right—nothing. No bites on my legs, only red streaks from my own scratching. This happens a lot, and when it does I know I am in for an overly sensitive day.

I am especially susceptible to the crawling feelings on my skin. Many days it feels like I have ants crawling all over me. I jump, I scratch, I tear off my clothing looking for those little suckers because I must have “ants in my pants” (Thank you very much to my second grade teacher—the visual never left my head!). Of course, I always find exactly the same thing—nothing. I even have https://www.pestcontrolexperts.com/ bookmarked on my computer because part of me is sure that I will one day discover the evidence I’ve been looking for. I’ve since learned that I’m not going mad and do actually have a condition that makes all this make sense, but still, these feelings seem so real that I’m not 100% convinced they’re not.

I swear most days I can feel the micro-organisms that live on human skin, living on me! I absolutely detest body hair because I think I can feel it grow. I can’t even count how many times I thought there was a bug on me (can you tell I have a bug phobia) only to find out that it was an arm hair that tickled me. I always assumed that all people (before my diagnosis and learning about autism) could feel their own body hair, or the piles on the sheets and wondered why I was the only it drove absolutely crazy.

This morning I was exhausted, put my head down on my pillow and was out like a light (drool and all) in two minutes flat! I was woken by the feeling that things were running over my skin. I screamed, jumped out of bed, and began my search again. I have a tremendous fear that the day I do not search and look there will really be something on me! That ended nap time.

On an additional note, these are also the days that I fear brushing my teeth because I know the gagging will follow, and the shower water will feel like small shards of glass hitting my skin! I wonder now if these super sensitive days are really contributing to the poor sleep that many autistics experience, or if the screaming and squirming that the children do are really an expression of this particular discomfort???

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Anyone else experience these skin crawling sensitivities?

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.


  1. I noticed that this was worse for me when I used to be prescribed Ritalin then Adderall back in the day. It is also a problem if I don’t sleep well the day before.

  2. Oh god I so relate to this. I have never actually linked it to my aspergers before though but now I can see that yes it is linked, to aspergers and pmt. I have de bed bugged my non bed bugged bed so many times. A crease in the sheets, a dog hair on my pillow…all guaranteed to drive me to the edge of insanity.

    • That darn crease in the sheets actually wakes me out of my sleep because it becomes painful! I had to giggle about you de-bed bugging the bed without bed bugs…been there done that–got the protective coverings (which I might add cost a small fortune) but I had to be sure. Even called an exterminating co. to make certain! No it is just my ridiculously sensitivities.

      Luckily I am the most sensitive (so far) in my house…but my boys do have some sensitivities of their own. If they all were as bad as me we would have to invest in a few bubbles.

  3. Yes! I have these days too.

  4. Yes. Hypersensitivity exists more, for me, with feelings, emotions & living beings. I’m learning to keep myself grounded through my breath and, therefor hold back on immediate reactions. I think that this approach is more challenging when it comes to physical stimuli. When it comes to physical stimuli, I have to alter it, somehow (if I can).

    • I agree it is a bit more difficult for me (sometimes) to handle or change the physical stimuli that is causing a problem, but I also noticed that the physical stuff definitely triggers my emotional overload as well. I become more sensitive clear across the board on those days. The reverse is also true, if I am overwhelmed emotionally, the physical site gets “hyped-up” as well. It is a delicate balancing act, at which I usually fail.

  5. Yes. Can totally relate to the invisible bugs in the bed thing and feeling the grain of bedsheets! Ex-boyfriends have likened me to The Princess and the Pea as it can take me forever to get comfortable and I’ll wake at the drop of a pin. I remember seeing a programme when I was (way too) young that magnified the micro-organisms that live on the skin. Bad idea for a visual mind!

    • Oh dear! Yes, very bad idea for the visual mind.

      Grandma often called me the Princess and the Pea too! She always said that is what her father called her…I think Grandma is on the spectrum.

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