Hyperesthesia: definition, symptoms, causes and treatment

What if all of a sudden you could feel all the physical sensations around you more intensely? You will probably think that it would be wonderful to be able to feel more intensely the whole range of pleasant and positive sensations that one can feel (hugs, caresses, kisses …) but … What if this “superpower” also made you feel the painful and annoying sensations more intensely?

In this article we will talk about hyperesthesia, A little-known perception disorder not to be confused with hypoaesthesia.

    What is hyperesthesia?

    The word hyperesthesia comes from hypertension and a derivative of the Greek αἴσθησις, sensitivity. Hyperesthesia can be defined as a perceptual condition that involves an abnormal increase in sensitivity to stimuli or sensations, usually tactile. It is a sensory distortion that causes us to experience sensations very intensely, even those belonging to low intensity stimuli (for example, rubbing clothes on the skin).

    Not to be confused with hypoaesthesia or paresthesia

    We will specifically define the two terms (hypoaesthesia and paresthesia) to avoid confusion:

    Hypoaesthesia is a decrease in sensitivity (as opposed to hyperesthesia), and paresthesia is said to be an abnormal sensation of the senses which results in tingling, numbness, etc. These alterations are caused by pathology in any area of ​​the structures of the central or peripheral nervous system..


    As a rule, people with hyperesthesia experience the most unpleasant sensations when touching, Although there are cases in which the senses of sight and hearing are also affected.

    Although there may be occasional times of very intense reactions to stimuli, people with hyperesthesia often experience a tingling, tingling, or tingling sensation almost continuously throughout the day.

    It should be noted that the person suffering from hyperesthesia can suffer from very high levels of anxiety, depression, which can lead to isolation and total interference in their daily life (professional, social, family and personal). Abnormal reactions to stimuli can occur at any time of the day, and this is where one of the most disruptive elements of hyperesthesia resides.

    Since almost any sensory element on the outside can be extremely annoying for the person, there is interference in their normal pace of life. For example, as we mentioned earlier, the friction of certain clothes, the intensity of the light (can become unbearable for the eyes), contact with lukewarm or hot water, covering yourself with a blanket, shaving – shaving or shaving – even physical and sexual contact with other people.

    Let’s say the person’s sensitivity threshold is well below what is best adaptive for humans., So that when faced with the same stimulus with the same intensity, they will experience by default more pain than a person without hyperaesthesia. Thus, the resistance to pain is much lower. What could be for us pleasant and self-healing activities (having a massage, applying a scrub on the skin, waxing …) for these people could hardly be tolerated.

    The variables that determine that the stimulus is considered negative are its intensity, the rate at which it occurs and / or the number of stimuli. Some people may feel more rejected by the touch of a particular piece (for example, a sweater) because of its intensity, and another person with this condition may experience intense negative tactile sensations in various areas of their body and by multiple stimuli (for example, several clothes at the same time).

    Dental or dentinal hyperesthesia

    Surely more than once, you have felt at some point in your life an intense reaction to the embarrassing or painful sensation generated by contact with cold food (which did not make the mistake of wanting to eat too quickly of the food). ice cream?).

    This type of hyperesthesia is specific to the dental area. It is characterized by an exaggerated response to thermal stimuli in the dental region. As you know, it usually manifests as a sharp, short (even stinging) pain in the prosthesis that is exposed. This may be due to loss of tooth enamel due to erosion of it, periodontal disease, or aggressive and abrasive brushing.

    the causes

    Fortunately, hyperesthesia is a rare condition. Most cases are due to a primary cause (psychopathology or use of psychoactive substances), and it is understood that this is a secondary symptom to these causes. We will detail each of them.

    Comorbid psychopathologies in hyperesthesia

    • mania: Some people with type I bipolar disorder who experience a manic episode may experience hyperesthesia, although this is usually a rare symptom. Experts hypothesized that the brain activation and arousal generated by mania are responsible for lowering the sensory threshold and the cause of this troublesome perceptual condition.
    • psychotic disorders: In these cases, hyperesthesia is usually more common, but is by no means a typical symptom of psychotic disorders. However, the mental disorder in which most cases of hyperesthesia are seen is schizophrenia. Although there is no solid body of research in this regard, it is believed that alterations in brain function lead to the emergence of this perceptual condition.

    Substances that can cause hyperaesthesia

    • Psychoactive substances (cocaine, methamphetamine): As a result of the consumption of these substances, an increase in the sensory sensitivity of the person may be caused. In such cases, the hyperesthesia usually occurs in parallel with the intoxication of the psychoactive substance, so it goes away when the psychoactive effects of the drug have ended.
    • Heroin use: Sedatives and opiates can cause hypoesthesia. In several studies, heroin use has been positively linked to experiencing these sensations.

    This disproportionate sensitivity resulting from stimuli and sensations can lead the person to abuse supporting substances (such as cocaine or alcohol), and psychological problems such as anxiety or clinical depression.

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