Interoception (Internal Bodily Awareness)

Interoception

Interoception is the body’s ability to recognize and interpret its own internal cues, such as hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and pain. Children with interoceptive processing issues typically have disproportionately weak or strong reactions to normal bodily urges, such as feeling hungry or needing to use the bathroom. They may not be able to recognize pain or symptoms of exhaustion, or they might be unable to properly gauge the severity of such symptoms.

Like proprioception, interoception is not as commonly recognized as other senses, but it plays a critical role in the body’s ability to regulate and protect itself. It’s how you know when you’re exhausted and need to rest, when you’re hungry and need to eat, or when you’re cold and need to put on a jacket.

Under Responsive Over Responsive
  • Has disproportionately weak reactions, or no reaction, to normal bodily cues
  • Doesn’t register hunger or thirst until practically starving
  • Doesn’t feel tired until totally exhausted
  • Feels pain less intensely than others and might not realize if an injury occurs
  • Is unable to sense an increase in heart rate
  • Has disproportionately strong reactions to normal bodily cues
  • Feels starving if only slightly hungry or thirsty
  • Feels pain more intensely or for a longer duration than others
  • Constantly feels as if he/she needs to use the bathroom
How to Support How to Support
  • Discuss ways to identify symptoms associated with bodily cues (for example, place your hand on your chest and feel it pounding to detect an increased heart rate).
  • Incorporate dense, calorie rich foods into each mealtime to ensure enough calories are being consumed (protein shakes, chocolate milk, etc.).
  • Encourage your child to try to use the bathroom before every transition or new activity (before getting into the car, going to bed, etc.).
  • Allow your child to have some quiet play or reading time in his/her room prior to sleep.
  • Acknowledge your child’s discomfort and patiently work to reduce anxiety.
  • Incorporate dense, calorie rich foods into each mealtime to ensure enough calories are being consumed (protein shakes, chocolate milk, etc.).
  • Treat and give attention to every injury, even very small scrapes and bruises (give band-aids, kisses, etc.).
  • Encourage your child to try to use the bathroom before every transition or new activity (before getting into the car, going to bed, etc.).

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