Environmental sensitivity is a multi-system disorder characterized by adverse reactions to certain foods, chemicals, and environmental agents. In this study, the impact of environmental sensitivity on the person, environment, and occupation, as well as on occupational performance and time use, was determined.
Using qualitative methods, 12 participants with environmental sensitivity were interviewed during a 2-month period. A time-use diary of activities over a 24hour period was obtained and compared with a survey conducted by Statistics Canada. Textual analysis was conducted by examining and coding data for emerging themes. Finally, the data were interpreted using the Person-Environment-Occupation Model (Law et al., 1996).
Findings suggest a multiple-system involvement that leads to changes in type, time, and location of self-care, productive, and leisure occupations. Changes to personal health, environment, and occupations contributed to a decline in occupational performance. Enabling and constraining factors influenced the adaptation to changes in occupational performance. Emerging themes included an initial struggle for legitimacy, societal stigma, isolation, financial strain, and loss of personal expression. Management of environmental sensitivity involved making personal, environmental, and occupational changes. Possible roles for occupational therapists encompass issues of pacing, energy conservation, environmental changes, job modification, and matching occupational interests with personal abilities.