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What is stimulus processing?

Another word for stimulus processing is sensory information processing; the processing of sensory stimuli. Stimuli are all the bits of information your senses perceive, e.g., things you see, hear or smell. Stimulus processing is the process of taking in and processing stimuli in order to respond and experience them. Impulse processing is something we do throughout the day. Continually, your senses receive information that they relay to your brain. It is a process that goes on 24/7, when you read or watch TV, when you dance or bike, when you eat and even when you sleep.

There is a split to be made between stimuli that are absorbed from the environments stimuli from your own body. We perceive the stimuli from our environment with our senses; seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling (external stimuli). But there are also stimuli from your own body that are transmitted to your brain (internal stimuli). This information is absorbed by the sense of balance, by your muscles and joints and your internal organs. This will give you information about the movements you make, what posture you have and whether you are hungry or need to pee. The stimuli from your own body often take precedence: if, for example, you are very hungry or have to urinate, it becomes very difficult to concentrate in class or in conversation. Your brain indicates: the body comes first!

Normally, many stimuli are filtered and processed unconsciously. To much of the information gathered by the senses you do not have to respond; these stimuli are filtered out. For example, you do not feel your tight socks all day, you are not constantly aware of the color of the floor, and you also filter out the sounds of a buzzing refrigerator. Other information, such as a question being asked or a car coming toward you, does cause you to react.

But what if your stimulus filter doesn’t work properly and you can’t properly distinguish between main and side issues?
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Stimulus processing problems

Individuals with problems in stimulus processing, also called sensory integration disorder, have a differently functioning filter on the stimuli they receive. They may sometimes react very strongly or, on the contrary, not react at all or hardly at all to stimuli and have difficulty distinguishing between main issues and side issues.

People with stimulus processing problems may be hypersensitive to sounds, for example, and as a result are aware of more sounds than the average person. When you notice more stimuli, you are also more easily distracted and it is difficult to focus. How well could you carry on a conversation when you keep hearing the sounds of a ticking clock, are distracted by your interlocutor’s moving hands and the pattern on his blouse keeps drawing your attention?

Sensory Integration (SI) Disorder is a neurological disorder that causes problems registering, processing and responding to sensory information from the environment or from one’s own body.

What is overstimulation?

Over-stimulation occurs when more stimuli are received than the brain can process. Your nervous system is busy processing all the incoming stimuli of sound, image, smell, movement, feeling, etc. Many of the (unprocessed) stimuli then get queued up and wait to be processed, so important information can be missed. With all those stimuli in the traffic jam, thinking and reacting are difficult. And each new stimulus (a touch, a question, etc.) is an additional stimulus in that traffic jam. Often the overstimulation also upsets the filter and too many stimuli are identified as important, unsafe and frightening.

Over-stimulation can lead to agitation, anxiety and behavior undesirable to the environment. These include loss of concentration, running away, panicking, expressing frustration and aggression and drowning out or stopping incoming stimuli (making noises, fingers in ears, fluttering). They are the body’s basic reactions to survive in a situation perceived as dangerous and fearful. They are also called the fight, flight or stiffen reactions. The basic emotion of fear and the resulting reactions are determined by the part of the brain called the amygdala.

Over-stimulation occurs when more information is received from senses than can be processed.

Fighting – fleeing – stiffening

The amygdalae (almond nuclei), are part of the oldest part of the brain, the limbic system. This system is a kind of emotional sentinel. All that matters is survival. If danger is imminent, this sentinel takes control to take immediate action. Adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and cortisol are released in the body in order to flee, fight or stiffen and just not react.

At the same time, thinking stops, because in threatening situations there is no time to think about what the best response will be. The amygdala allows us to avoid danger even before we realize we are in danger. Due to overstimulation, people are no longer able to cope rationally. Fear takes over and the amygdala triggers a fight, flight or stiffen reaction.

Due to over-stimulation, people are no longer able to cope rationally. Fear takes over and the amygdala triggers a fight, flight or stiffen reaction.


Everyone has a natural need for safety, security and warmth. That deep pressure produces a calming effect is nothing new. Consider, for example, the effect of a firm hug when you are upset or swaddling restless babies. Individuals who have stimulus processing problems and often feel restless or anxious can benefit greatly from deep pressure.

Deep pressure directly affects the tonsil nuclei and has a regulatory effect on stimulus processing, making you less “hit” by incoming stimuli. It helps to calm an overstimulated or “anxious” nervous system and makes one feel safe and protected. This helps you cope better with stress and overstimulation, reduce tantrums, concentrate better and fall asleep faster.

In contrast to light touch, where the surface receptors in the skin are stimulated, deep pressure activates the deeper located receptors.

Squease deep pressure vest

There are many different ways to apply deep pressure. Some like to lie under a heavy blanket or crawl away under the couch cushion. Others like to be held tightly. This provides a sense of safety and security. But what if there isn’t a heavy blanket nearby or you actually get stressed by the physical contact when someone hugs you? After all, getting a hug also brings new stimuli. The smell of perfume, an itchy sweater, the warmth of the other and does he hold you tightly enough or does he not stop cuddling too soon?

With the Squease pressure vest, you give yourself soothing deep pressure when you need it. You have complete control over how much and how long you want to experience pressure. You can take the lightweight Squease vest with you wherever you go so you have it on hand in those moments that lead to agitation, anxiety and overstimulation; for example, in a crowded supermarket, at school/work, at the dentist or just at home after a busy day full of stimuli.

Soothing deep pressure helps in moments of restlessness, anxiety and overstimulation.
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