The Interoceptive System
What is the Interoceptive System?
The interoceptive system works within the human body enabling it to experience, understand and react to the physiological state of itself. It allows the brain to process the body’s physical and emotional states and react accordingly. The ability to act upon sensations like hunger, thirst, pain, temperature, the need to use the bathroom, is dependent on the interoceptive system. The effective functioning of this system can be impaired by conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, autism and trauma.
Understanding the Interoceptive System may offer new insights into the root of common childhood issues.
The ultimate goal is for our bodies to reach homeostasis, an internal balance of systems, using the least amount of energy. When our internal balance, or homeostasis, is off, our interoceptive system signals our body to take action.
Thirst = drink. Hunger = eat. Fatigue = rest. Cold = put on a sweater.
Full bladder = go to the bathroom
Interoception and self-regulation have a symbiotic relationship
A child’s ability to self-regulate his emotions and behavior is closely tied to his interoceptive system. Without clear body signals, a child may not notice subtle differences in the way each emotion feels (poor emotional awareness), and can result in difficulty identifying, reacting to, and controlling his emotions. This can result in the child having difficulties successfully engaging within their social and physical environments.
Interoception might be considered the “boss” of senses, for if it is not working properly, other senses could be adversely effected. It is the foundation for subjective feelings, emotion and self-awareness … to social brain building.
How to help a child strengthen his interoceptive system
Intervention therapy with a pediatric occupational therapist can greatly improve interoceptive processing. A “sensory diet” can be created to address areas of hyper or hypo sensitivity. Mindfulness activities and meditation can also help facilitate interoceptive awareness.
Learn more about Child Success Programs that support development of a child’s interoceptive system…