Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Spider senses

with 4 comments

This will probably come across as a very self-indulgent post until I make my point at the end, so stick with me!

I’ve always had a number of personality traits regarded by my family and friends as endearing, but kooky, weird, odd.


  • As soon as I buy a new item of clothing I cut the label out, even at risk of damaging the garment. I just can’t stand the scratchy sensation of the label against my skin, which sometimes comes out in a rash.
  • I won’t wear wool, it itches too much.
  • I throw out jeans if the nylon seams melt under the iron and start to scratch.
  • I can’t wear G-strings. I’m very fussy about knickers, I will only wear knickers that don’t ride up my backside, otherwise I spend most of my time surreptitiously trying to hoick them out again.
  • Bras drive me crazy. I feel suffocated and scratched. I constantly fuss with the back band and the arm bands, I can’t stand it if they twist. I can never find a bra that feels right, looks right, or fits right.
  • I throw out perfectly good clothes because they don’t ‘feel right’ or ‘smell right’.
  • If I have a stone in my shoe – even the tiniest bit of grit – I will stop walking and fuss around until I’ve got rid of it. I always have stones in my shoes.
  • If I have a splinter in my clothing I will go to the extent of finding a public toilet where I can pull off my clothes and try and find it.
  • I have constant problems with pairs of shoes. They aren’t soft enough, they pinch, they scratch, they gather stones, they let in water, they slip off my feet. I get through hundreds of pairs of shoes because I am never happy with any of them!
  • I will only wear certain colours of clothes. I would never wear red or bright primary or secondary colours. I wouldn’t wear black until recently. I have terrible problems matching clothes for colours as they never seem to go together.
  • In shops, I feel clothes to determine whether they are nice or not. Texture is most important.
  • Given a choice, I prefer to wear only pure cotton.

Smells and inhalants:

  • I protest very loudly at use of spray deodorant, hairspray or perfume in my vicinity and splutter, cough and sneeze and run away from the offending airspace like a big baby.
  • When subjected to strong smells or smoke I frequently pull up my jumper or bunch my cardigan sleeve so it covers my mouth and nose and breathe through the fabric so I don’t have to breathe the smell.
  • I once refused to date an otherwise perfectly nice guy whose breath smelt.
  • I like some smells that other people regard as disgusting, like mild body odour on others.
  • I hate smells other people think are nice, like air freshener, which always smells ‘artificial’ to me. Most perfumes and deodorants also smell ‘artificial’ to me and make me feel nauseous.


  • I am a supertaster and was regarded as ‘a fussy eater’ by my parents.
  • I was fussy from being a baby, apparently I was very difficult to wean onto mixed foods.
  • I went four hours between breast feeds, and my mother regards this as ‘fussy’ (I don’t), because I wouldn’t take as much milk as other babies.
  • I had colic as a baby.
  • I didn’t eat much of anything and my mother thought I was a child anorexic.
  • As a child I played with my food a lot before eating it. I used to make castles and mountains out of my mashed potato.
  • I ate in a quirky or ritualistic way.
  • I always used my knife and fork backwards so I could hold my fork in my dominant hand in order to poke and prod stuff before deciding whether to eat it.
  • I would eat egg yolks but would not eat egg whites.
  • I would only drink whole, fresh, pasteurised milk (not UHT, not skimmed).
  • I still cut off all stems and stalks from vegetables because they are chewy and taste bad.
  • I wouldn’t eat any kind of skin from anything, like chicken skin, or the skin on warmed milk or custard, or sausage skin, or bacon rind.
  • I cut off and spat out any kind of gristle.
  • I wouldn’t eat anything browned or burnt, like bread crusts, burnt toast, roast potatoes, or burnt meat.
  • I wouldn’t eat bread crusts, or even the stale edges of bread that the crust had been cut off from. I drove my mum up the wall because I would eat around the edges of my crustless sandwiches.
  • I wouldn’t drink soft drinks because they ‘hurt’ my tongue.
  • I wouldn’t eat crisps because they hurt my mouth.
  • I wouldn’t eat mashed potato with lumps or skin or stringy bits in it.
  • I could tell the difference between different brands of chocolate and I would only eat Cadbury’s chocolate, I found Nestlé chocolate and foreign chocolate sickly.
  • I could tell the difference between different brands of breakfast cereal and would only eat Kellogg’s cereals. Supermarket brands had tiny specks in them. I would only eat bland, starchy cereals like corn flakes and rice krispies. Sugar puffs had sharp bits in them, and fibrous cereals were scratchy.
  • I found strongly flavoured food like meat pies, and fish and chips disgusting enough to make me retch. I hated strong gravy and strong sausages.
  • I didn’t drink tea or coffee until I was nineteen.
  • The only fruit juice I would drink as a child was Ribena blackcurrant cordial. Apparently I was ‘allergic’ to orange juice. I wouldn’t drink any kind of real or fake fruit juice as a teenager, the flavour was always too strong, tangy, sweet, or artificial.
  • I can tell the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners with just a sip. Artificial sweeteners have an unpleasant aftertaste to me, and they are too sweet.
  • I have an aversion to a lot of artificial flavours and colours. I can taste artificial flavours.
  • I go through fads with foods of really, really liking them and then all of a sudden absolutely hating them for months. Coconut milk and different kinds of breakfast cereals are good examples.
  • Like the little girl in the movie Signs, I wouldn’t drink water that tasted strange or had dust in it.
  • I hated the artificial flavours of veggie substitute foods like TVP, Sosmix, or Quorn. I found vegetable stock and nut roasts disgusting.
  • I hated all fruit except banana, and I would eat around the bruises, stringy bits, or the bottom end where the spike is. Cooked banana made me retch.
  • I have never got out of the habit of very carefully peeling ALL fruit and removing ALL core and seeds.
  • I have never managed to eat a whole orange. I just suck out the juice and spit out the left over segment skins. I used to do the same with grapes.
  • I used to squeeze garden peas out of their skins before I would eat them. Every single pea! Mushy peas drove me nuts because they were impossible to separate from their skins.
  • I wouldn’t and still won’t eat ‘squeaky foods’ – that is, foods that make squeaking noises in the mouth, like undercooked green beans or a number of other al dente vegetables.
  • I hated all salad vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, lettuce, partly because they were ‘squeaky’ and partly because they were sharp and crispy and hurt my mouth.
  • Anything with a shell on or legs (like prawns) still freaks me out. I have to be really careful to get all of the shell off prawns, and remove the dark line down the back that is the prawn poo.
  • I hate picking up food to eat it. I have a mare over things like barbecue ribs or corn cobs or chicken drumsticks, and my partner finds it painful to watch me fiddling around with them with a knife and fork!


  • I can’t stand the feel of dirt, stickiness, or grease on my hands, or any kind of smell on my hands, this leads me to wash my hands an awful lot. This has been regarded by people I know as obsessive-compulsive behaviour. It is very difficult to get across to them that I am washing my hands because they feel and smell wrong, not just because I have to keep clean.
  • Even though I love pets, I won’t touch them unless absolutely necessary because they make my hands feel greasy and dirty, as well as giving me allergies.
  • I always have to wash my hands and face after eating, then moisturise my face again.
  • I absolutely hate the smell of chlorine on my body from swimming baths.
  • I’m very funny about what washing powders and liquids I use. I don’t like strong ones, or ones that leave clothes feeling stiff.
  • I take very long showers because I don’t feel clean from washing for just five minutes.
  • I always wash new clothes before wearing them because of the new smell.
  • I splash the taps when I wash my hands to remove any grease or soap on them.
  • I’m very fussy about having a clean windscreen, a clean monitor screen, and wearing clean sunglasses.
  • I can’t start cooking in the kitchen unless all of the units are perfectly clean and clear.
  • I worry and pick at spots and scabs and bits of dry skin until I’ve got rid of them. Should I get a verruca on my foot I will take immediate and drastic action to get rid of it, no matter how painful. When I was a kid I once picked at a mole on my back until I made it bleed floods all down my clothes.
  • Princess and the pea: I can’t sleep in a bed that contains the smallest amount of grit, crumbs, sand, animal fur, smells funny, or has bobbles on the sheets.

In general:

  • I have spider senses. I have a perfect ear, I am a tetrachromat, I am a supertaster, and I have strong senses of touch and smell.
  • My sister also has a perfect ear and is a musician. I used to play the violin but gave up, in spite of being told I was very good, because I was unhappy with the quality of sound I was making.
  • I don’t like noisy or shouty music.
  • I’m allergic to a lot of animals, to house dust mites, and to grass and tree pollen.
  • I never liked to be touched as a child, I was quite stand-offish and didn’t like expressing emotions in front of people because they were unbearably powerful things.
  • I’m very pedantic and exacting. Because I pick up on details and clues, I would make a good detective.
  • But for the fact that my eye for detail sometimes gets me lost as in ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’. Then all at once I will have a great big epiphany!
  • I am good at spotting personality disorders, illnesses, and when people are lying.
  • I’m very good at connecting illnesses to particular causes, whether environmental, genetic or nutritional.
  • I have a very, very complex world view. Nothing is ever simple or black and white. I hate black and white thinking!
  • Spelling mistakes are like splinters on the page.
  • I frequently scramble words in speech and sometimes in writing – something my maternal grandmother also does. Words with similar meanings like ‘molecules’ and ‘atoms’, or ‘viruses’ and ‘bacteria’ might get scrambled. This makes me look stupid, even though I know what I’m really talking about!
  • Even though I have very good hearing, I don’t make out words and meanings very well and have to say “sorry?” or “pardon?” a lot. I’ve often described myself as an audial dyslexic. I find myself frequently saying “sorry, I’m a bit deaf” to strangers who say something to me that I don’t catch, even though I’m not deaf, I can’t make out the words!
  • I can be quite resentful, bitter, judgmental, and not very forgiving, even though I would like to be.
  • I’m very discriminating and discerning and a food and drink snob. I like only fine wines, fine chocolates, fine perfumes (and then not much), and expensive items such like furniture, kitchen items, or clothes that are well finished. I own a designer handbag. Signs of a cheap finish put me off. I have been known to be put off an entire designer brand at any sign of cheapness in a finish. I once went to a very nice restaurant and didn’t enjoy my meal at all because I saw a big tin of vegetable oil out the back. You could call me Fraiser Crane.
  • Like Captain Hook, I CAN’T STAND TICKING CLOCKS!
  • I can smell odours on people’s breath and know what they’ve been eating. My partner complains he can’t get away with anything!
  • Smells bring back old memories and feelings very strongly. Smells include very specific things like ‘Nottingham night air’ or ‘fall in Baltimore’, as well as things everyone can relate to like ‘hydrocarbon summer’ or ‘cut grass spring’. Every single house I’ve lived in has its own particular smell that brings back powerful happy or sad feelings. People have their own unique smells too.
  • I hate plastic and like glass, but not thin or flawed glass.
  • I am bugged abnormally by a lack of symmetry in an object or arrangement, or by a lopsided picture frame.
  • Patterns on curtains or furnishings obsess me. I try to avoid buying things with patterns on them, unless they are floral.
  • I hate artificial colours. I am particularly repulsed by bright red, and a kind of green I call ‘chemical green’, which is different from grass or natural green. I like pastel colours, pale pinks, pale blues, and shades of natural brown and natural green.
  • Rather fittingly, I drive a car, a Smart Roadster, that is very sensitive to the heat and cold and what petrol is in the tank. I can tell the difference between different brands of 97 octane petrol in terms of engine noise and responsiveness.

All these traits invite comments like “don’t be so melodramatic”, and “stop fussing”, and “for God’s sake” from others, even fellow supertasters. Sometimes these traits get me into situations that are amusing or annoying to others. I am a nightmare at barbecues and picnics, on the beach, or at houses with pets.

On the other hand I rather like being special in that I have such acute senses and can pick up on things before other people.

Many of the personality traits listed above can be distilled down to underlying oversensitivities with the senses. Everything is very loud to me – colours, feelings, smells, tastes, noises, sensations. I seem to go through life wincing. I’ve always known that I experience things much louder than a lot of other people, but never really wondered why. When I see girls with twisted bra straps or uneven clothing, I think “how can you STAND that?!”

It is nice to know that everything I’ve confessed to here has a purpose – I’m not just weird! Joan Breakey’s continuing research over the last twenty years suggests that these traits are connected, probably through genetics, to food chemical sensitivities.


Written by alienrobotgirl

19 March, 2006 at 10:35 am

4 Responses

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  1. I was doing a search for super tasters and came across your blog. Wow! So many things in your post, I’m like wow… that’s me! Thought I was the only one! I’m a super taster & if I smell something bad, I know it won’t taste good. Stomach feels queasy a lot. And so many people tell me to stop fussing! I also can’t stand ticking clocks or steel wool sponges for that matter! I also get words backwards & say things like hot when I mean cold. Often find myself saying pardon a lot just to verify what someone said. Anyways just felt compelled to post. So nice when you can relate to someone else 🙂 Take care.


    23 September, 2007 at 5:13 am

  2. A question for you, has failsafe appeared to reduce your spider senses? Do you feel you are less reactive or have you not noticed a difference?I am sorry if I am asking this question in the wrong place. I have never blogged before and I am trying to find answers for my 4 year old son. We are currently going dairy free and I am looking at doing the failsafe diet. Thank you for your time,Angela


    30 January, 2008 at 4:12 am

  3. Hi,You guys check out Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). My son (4) has been diagnosed with it (over responsive in all his senses). Alot of ADHD, Autistic, Aspergers kids have it (used to diagnose as a syptom, now researchers into SPD think it is seperate). My son only has SPD (we think). I found your blog whilst we are following diet links (yes I am contemplating failsafe, pyroluria, gluten, dairy intoleranc links). Thank you for your site.PS> We have had great success doing listening therapy with my son, he has gone from “Everything hurts my ears” to only sometimes commenting on it. He is not “cured” but it has helped him so he can function in the world especially preschool (before he would shutdown) expecially at home.SPD is not recognised in the medical world yet, they are trying to get it in the diagnosic manuals


    30 January, 2008 at 3:52 am

  4. Hi AngelaThanks for the info on SPD. This is quite an old post – I’m quite sure I have auditory processing disorder (something I’ve called audial or aural dyslexia for years).I’m pretty sure SPD is genetic, but I have a much higher tolerance for sounds, skin sensitivity etc when I am failsafe. Many people on have reported huge successes with their children who are very sound sensitive.In my opinion, don’t bother with any other diet or therapy. Just do failsafe. After a few weeks of doing failsafe, trial dairy AND wheat/gluten/oats free at the same time – they tend to be secondary factors that do help.

    Alien Robot Girl

    30 January, 2008 at 12:40 pm

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