Interoception: the hidden sense that shapes wellbeing
There’s growing evidence that signals sent from our internal organs to the brain play a major role in regulating emotions and fending off anxiety and depression
If you’re sitting in a safe and comfortable position, close your eyes and try to feel your heart beating in your chest. Can you, without moving your hands to take your pulse, feel each movement and count its rhythm? Or do you struggle to detect anything at all? This simple test is just one way to assess your “interoception” – your brain’s perception of your body’s state, transmitted from receptors on all your internal organs.
Interoception may be less well known than the “outward facing” senses such as sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, but it has enormous consequences for your wellbeing. Scientists have shown that our sensitivity to interoceptive signals can determine our capacity to regulate our emotions, and our subsequent susceptibility to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
It is now one of the fastest moving areas in neuroscience and psychology, with academic conferences devoted to the subject and a wealth of new papers emerging every month. “We are seeing an exponential growth in interoceptive research,” says Prof Manos Tsakiris, a psychologist at Royal Holloway, University of London.
My main ones are I’m quite often mildly dehydrated due to poor recognition of thirst. Difficulty telling I’m full up after eating. Never been able to take my pulse. Dxes= ASD + schizophrenia
But I think many people these days don't connect that well anymore with their bodies and physical sensations and I've been surprised how often I hear (neurotypical) people saying that they can't tell the difference between hunger or thirst, or other rather specific signals (pain, discomfort) their body uses to tell them something is wrong. It's almost as if they don't realise that the body and mind aren't really independent of each other.