The Interoception Sense - Bridging the Gap Between Physical & Emotional Awareness

The Interoception Sense - Bridging the Gap Between Physical & Emotional Awareness

What is Interoception?

This mysterious inner sense is responsible for detecting internal bodily sensations such as hunger, thirst, heartbeat, and even the need for deep breathing, as well as awareness of emotions as anger, happiness, anxiety, sadness,...etc. Interoception, also commonly known as the sixth sense, is gaining recognition for its significant impact on our physical and emotional health.[1]

Its Importance to Our Wellness - Bridging the Gap Between Physical & Emotional Awareness

This inner sense helps us interpret physical signals from our body, which our brain then processes to generate emotional responses. For instance, a fast heartbeat might be interpreted as anxiety in a stressful situation or excitement in a positive context. This demonstrates how interoception bridges the gap between physical sensations and emotional awareness, influencing how we react to various situations. [2]

Interoception's relevance extends beyond emotional regulation. People with heightened interoceptive awareness tend to have better emotional regulation skills and decision-making abilities. On the other hand, dysregulation in interoception has been linked to various health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. This connection underscores the importance of fostering a strong interoceptive sense to maintain mental and physical health. [3]

Interocption issues.

Interoception Issues and Neurodivergence

The insular cortex (a portion of the cerebral cortex in the brain) plays a key role in how the body registers interoceptive awareness." (Mahler, 2017) [5] It has a vital role in several activities such as the perception of pain, the primary emotions from happiness, joy, anger, and disgust as well as the awareness of bodily states. (the experience of your heart beating, temperature such as being hot or cold).


Decreased functioning in the insula is associated with several psychological conditions and forms of neurodivergence, including Autism, ADHD, OCD, Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, Substance abuse, Bipolar, PTSD, and Eating Disorders.


Several implications of poor interoceptive awareness may look like this:

  • Difficulty with maintaining homeostasis. (A state of balance among all the body systems needed for the body to survive and function correctly.)
  • Self-regulation difficulties.
  • Emotional regulation challenges.
  • Health and wellness issues.
  • A diffused sense of self and others.
  • Relationship struggles.


A neurodivergent person may experience these implications in three ways; 

  • Under-registration is more common and is characterized by reduced signals from the body. 
  • Over-registration is when the person experiences exaggerated signals from the body (they feel everything with intensity). 
  • Difficulty distinguishing body signals is when the brain registers the appropriate amount, but the person cannot distinguish one signal from the other, leaving them feeling disoriented in their body. [6]


How to Develop Our Interoception Skills


The most widely used way of measuring interoception is by heart-beat detection tests. People with good interoceptive awareness can detect their heartbeat with high accuracy. On the other hand, people with poor interoceptive awareness struggle to detect their heartbeat accurately (Ponzo et al., 2021).[7]


Practices to improve interoception awareness include:


-Mindful Awareness in Body-Oriented Therapy the MABT approach, explicitly designed for teaching and learning interoceptive awareness. MABT was developed by co-author Cynthia Price in the 1980s in response to the need to integrate somatic and emotional awareness work within body-oriented therapy practice. [4]

-Practice mindful interoceptive check-ins: By applying an outside sensation and doing two interoception changes, bringing attention to any shifts in sensations that you notice. -

-Breathing exercises: find many here like lazy 8 which is calming and also helps us to pay attention to what is going on inside our bodies.[6]  

-You can use toys to talk about feelings and emotions to help educate the children to identify, express, and ultimately  regulate their emotions. Example  here


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