Interoception is the sense of signals, which originate from the inside of our body, such as knowing when we’re hungry, feeling nervous in the stomach or feeling our hearts beating. Interocpetion is one of our important senses like vision, hearing, taste, and smell. Understanding interoception can also help us to recognize emotions in ourselves and others, improve physical and mental health and understand how particular sensations feel in our body.Misrepresentations of internal states, or a disconnect between the body's signals and the brain's interpretation and prediction of those signals, have been suggested to underlie conditions such as anxiety, panic disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Attention Deficit Disorder. There may be a disconnect in the way in which an individual is perceiving interoception signals within the body if at all.
When someone frequently experiences difficulties identifying how they feel, they might experience something called Alexithymia. Alexithymia is a Greek term that translates to “no words for emotions.” Researchers commonly define it as an experience in which a person has difficulty identifying and describing their emotions. Essentially, someone who experiences Alexithymia has a hard time understanding their feels.While about 10% of people experience Alexithymia, the rate increases for people who are neurodivergent, experienced trauma, and/or have a mental health diagnosis.
Both formal meditation, and other forms of mindfulness (yoga) have strong links to the interoception experience. By activating the insula in the brain (the interoceptive center), mindfulness and meditation exercises can boost our interoception awareness and get us in touch with sensations across our body. Gaining a better understanding of how our bodies are operating in the present, keeps us in 'the body' versus disassociating, brings many advantages and personal fulfillment.
Interoception training allows for improved self-regulation and gaining mastery over felt or perceived emotional signals held within the body. Increased self-awareness means increased self-regulation. By recognizing internal sensations with more speed and efficiency, we can learn how to effectively respond to them, and gain more control over our daily actions.
Increased emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is continuously making improvements with observing, labelling, identifying, and understanding your own thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Emotional intelligence lends way to improved decision-making skills. Feeling "gut instincts" with accuracy and learning to trust personal decisions.
Reducing stress and anxiety. People with anxiety disorders are known to show hyper-activation in the cingulate cortex (the part of the brain associated with interoception). Dysfunctional interoceptive awareness can also overlap with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Attempting to maintain moderate levels of internal awareness can reduce the impact of all these issues.