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Sensory Processing and Intolerance in OCD 

Sensory Processing and Intolerance in OCD
Sensory Processing and Intolerance in OCD

Stephanie J. Grimaldi

, and Emily R. Stern

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date: 17 May 2022

Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often exhibit abnormal sensitivity to sensory stimuli and a reduced ability to screen out stimuli that most do not find bothersome. This chapter reviews evidence documenting increased sensitivity to external sensory stimuli (auditory, olfactory, tactile) and reduced sensory gating in patients with OCD. In some individuals such sensitivity can present as a primary symptom. Many patients with OCD also experience sensations that appear to be “internally generated,” including not-just-right experiences, incompleteness, and physical urges; this is the focus of the second half of the chapter. These sensations, termed “sensory phenomena,” cause significant distress and impairment in daily functioning and may require different treatments than fear-based obsessions. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of directions for future research that may provide further insight into the nature of sensory symptoms as well as potential treatments.

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