Sensory over-responsivity in a sample of children seeking treatment for anxiety

Christine A. Conelea, Alice C. Carter, Jennifer B. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Objective: Sensory over-responsivity (SOR) refers to an exaggerated, intense, or prolonged behavioral response to ordinary sensory stimuli. The relationship of SOR to psychiatric disorders remains poorly understood. The current study examined the SOR construct within typically developing children with clinically significant anxiety, including the prevalence and course of SOR symptoms and relationship between SOR symptoms, demographic factors, and psychopathology.

Method: Children presenting at an anxiety specialty clinic (n = 88) completed a psychiatric diagnostic assessment, which included parent-report measures of SOR, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and global behavior and child-report measures of anxiety, depression, and OCD.

Results: Sensory over-responsivity symptoms were very common: 93.2% were bothered by at least 1 tactile or auditory sensation, and the mean number of bothersome sensations was 9.2 (SD = 7.4). SOR symptoms were reported to be "moderately bothersome" on average and to onset at an early age. Sensory Over-Responsivity Inventory (SensOR) scores did not differ by psychiatric disorder diagnosis, but SensOR scores significantly correlated with measures of OCD and depression. Higher SensOR scores were associated with greater global impairment.

Conclusion: A high rate of SOR symptom occurrence was observed in this sample of children seeking anxiety treatment, suggesting that SOR may not be entirely independent of anxiety and may be closely associated with OCD. Future research on the validity and nosology of SOR using psychiatric samples is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-521
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 10 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Psychopathology
  • Sensory


Dive into the research topics of 'Sensory over-responsivity in a sample of children seeking treatment for anxiety'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this