My Weird Texture-Sensitivity Thing FAQ
I have a strange quirk about touching certain textures. Touching velvet, corduroy, chalk, has always just made my skin crawl. It feels unpleasantly electric. The urge to withdraw is strong. I can't make out the surface very well because it's so uncomfortable. What's more the feeling of being "velved" lingers, sometimes for several minutes, leaving me squirming, embarrassed and vulnerable.
I don't dislike these materials. I just can't touch them. I wish I could touch them. But I can't. At least not under normal circumstances. Over the years well-meaning friends have taken to tease, prank, or -- what's a bit saddening -- debunk my aversion with stunts getting me to touch velvety stuff. This has definitely led to friction and loss of understanding. This aversion is not some matter of me simply disliking these textures as one might dislike lemon pie. This is more like disliking tin-foil pie. Surprisingly however, despite being very emotionally sensitive child, I always seemed to handle this pretty well. I had to be my own advocate.
It's something weirdly magical. Feeling part of something bigger; a pinkey in some strange velv dimension. Over the years I have discovered more about these feelings in myself and found them indeed complex -- just as I'm sure those who are or have been close to me have found them.
I hope making this is helpful to at least someone but hopefully everyone :)
Does it hurt?
No It does not hurt. It's more like hitting your funny bone. It's an intensely overpowering sensation much like tickling. It leaves me feeling very vulnerable. In this way it can be psychologically harmful. But, no, the sensation isn't pain and that makes it more complicated to emphasize how uncomfortable it is.
Does this impede your daily life?
Yes. It's very difficult to touch these textures. Picking something up made of velvet is very disturbing.
Which textures cause it?
Velvet, corduroy, most pre-2000 car upholstery, a lot of wool, chalk, anything composed of many small, dry particles or fibers that engage the skin perpendicularly, a great example being actually called "micro-fiber." I'm not sure of all the details but my theory is that the feeling has something to do with all of these little fibers overloading my nerve endings. Kind of like how confetti can degrade the quality of streaming video. Or how two co-primely threaded bolts slide easily along one anothers length (maybe this is less well-known? ;)
Do some textures feel more "velvy" than others?
It is definitely a spectrum with velvet the most velvy. Scars seems a combination of pain, velv, and numbness-phenomenon (see next question).
Do you have any other tactile issues?
YES! Touching scars and even temporarily numb areas of my body elicits the feeling, often with a number of other strange neurological artifacts, but definitely the velvy feeling. Touching a scar or a numb area is more intense than touching a velvy texture. This makes sense as it is the combination of many intense sensations and velv is but one that I describe to you separate now.
Do you have any weirder, harder-to-explain tactile experiences?
I'm glad you asked! Sometimes everything I touch will feel velvy. This is often followed by a migraine headache. This was much more frequent as a child.
Are there any areas of your body that are more sensitive to velv than others?
Yes. The feeling is definitely strongest at finger/toe tips.
Are there any areas of your body that are less sensitive than others?
Paradoxically the erogenous areas are immune to the effects. I don't think I had ever truly perceived velvet the way I assume it often is until it was rubbed across my nipples. And this is where it gets very interesting to me: the effect basically intensifies the further away from the groin or nipples you are, being maximum in the fingertips and toes.
So if certain textures are "velvy" and scars are "velvy", what happens if you touch a velvy surface to a scar?
I don't know, let's find out... They seem to cancel out. I know. That is very weird and confusing. But that's what happens.
You said there is a remedy?!
YES! The sensation caused by contact with a velvy surface can be quelled by touching any one of a host of other textures. Marble, glass, rubber, lotion. I describe these textures as "diavelvy"
This leads me to wonder if perhaps velvy surfaces feel smooth to a lot of people because there are so many little fibers they all blend together into one continuous seeming surface but this is a trick of sensation that does't quite work on me. To be smooth to my touch the elements need to be smaller; much like smoothness is defined in optics.
So, if velvy surfaces are unpleasant are diavelvy surfaces pleasurable?
Can anything be done to the offending surface to improve it?
Get it wet. When these surfaces are wet their fibers don't interact with the skin in the same way.
Does water help get rid of the feeling once it has happened?
No. If anything wetting the hands afterwards worsens the effect. Now, adding soap is a different story though.
What's this condition called?
There is no simple diagnosis here. As it is not a life-threatening condition this is the sort of thing that is only being researched now. And this research is normally in the psychiatric sector dealing with OCD and autistic spectrum disorders. It has apparently long been known that autistic individuals have these kind of strange aversions. But, OCD is known to have quirks like these too. Between these two I have definitely found myself in the autistic category. Not even mentioning my family history and personal behavioral history I knew that it wasn't OCD. Because I'm not afraid of touching these textures any more than a person is afraid of touching a cactus. In OCD there is great, critical, crippling fear associated with the compulsion. I am not afraid of velvet, although I may be afraid of the actual neurological effect of it.
There is a movement of people wanting to introduce an official "sensory processing disorder." It may well be that this exists, on it's own, but for me that just confuses matters more from what I've researched and experienced myself. Finally delving into this as an adult I found it to be a doorway into a whole new understanding of my quirky life, an understanding with "autism spectrum" in mind. But that's something for another article. Shit, this isn't even an article it's an answer in a FAQ....
So the short answer is it is an autistic trait
Are there other's like you?
Well, there are certainly other people with autistic traits. Otherwise they'd just call them honeynymph traits. So, yes.
Now, I haven't found any communities of "velvies" myself aside from a few dead forum posts but that isn't to say there isn't one. But, again, this is really an autistic trait and as such Freenode's #wrongplanet is probably the best bet for a community.
But wait! You're autistic!?
The short answer is: I don't know.
The long answer is there is some kind of exciting link between migraine headaches -- remember the migraine headaches I mentioned?, tactile hypersensitivity, anxiety, and, of course, me.
If migraines are accompanied by velvy sensation does diavelvy stimulation not help?
It doesn't not help.
Is there ever a time velviness is good?
I'd like to find that out with another consenting, caring adult and a lot of rope.