Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Development of the Sensory Hypersensitivity Scale (SHS): a self-report tool for assessing sensitivity to sensory stimuli

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Sensory hypersensitivity is one manifestation of the central sensitization that may underlie conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. We conducted five studies designed to develop and validate the Sensory Hypersensitive Scale (SHS); a 25-item self-report measure of sensory hypersensitivity. The SHS assesses both general sensitivity and modality-specific sensitivity (e.g. touch, taste, and hearing). 1202 participants (157 individuals with chronic pain) completed the SHS, which demonstrated an adequate overall internal reliability (Cronbach’s alpha) of 0.81, suggesting the tool can be used as a cross-modality assessment of sensitivity. SHS scores demonstrated only modest correlations (Pearson’s r) with depressive symptoms (0.19) and anxiety (0.28), suggesting a low level of overlap with psychiatric complaints. Overall SHS scores showed significant but relatively modest correlations (Pearson’s r) with three measures of sensory testing: cold pain tolerance (−0.34); heat pain tolerance (−0.285); heat pain threshold (−0.271). Women reported significantly higher scores on the SHS than did men, although gender-based differences were small. In a chronic pain sample, individuals with fibromyalgia syndrome demonstrated significantly higher SHS scores than did individuals with osteoarthritis or back pain. The SHS appears suitable as a screening measure for sensory hypersensitivity, though additional research is warranted to determine its suitability as a proxy for central sensitization.


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Journal of Behavioral Medicine