Sensitization refers to the process by which an individual’s sensitivity or responsiveness to a stimulus increases over time. This can occur due to repeated exposures or experiences with the stimulus, resulting in amplified reactions or an enhanced perception of the stimulus.


Sensitization can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Repetition: Frequent exposure to the stimulus can lead to sensitization.
  • Intensity: The intensity or severity of the stimulus can contribute to sensitization.
  • Emotional factors: Emotional significance or association with the stimulus can enhance sensitization.
  • Environmental factors: External environmental conditions can influence sensitization processes.


The process of sensitization involves several underlying mechanisms, such as:

  • Neuroplasticity: Changes in neural circuitry or synaptic connections can lead to heightened sensitivity.
  • Psychological conditioning: Associating the stimulus with a particular outcome can elicit sensitization responses.
  • Neurochemical changes: Alterations in neurotransmitter levels or receptor sensitivity can contribute to sensitization.
  • Learned responses: Prior experiences and learned responses can influence the degree of sensitization.


Sensitization can have various effects on individuals, including:

  • Increased reactivity: Sensitized individuals may exhibit heightened emotional or physiological reactions to the stimulus.
  • Altered perception: Sensitization can lead to perceiving the stimulus as more intense or significant than before.
  • Behavioral changes: Sensitization may impact an individual’s behavior, potentially leading to avoidance or seeking of the stimulus.
  • Hypersensitivity: Sensitized individuals may become more susceptible to negative effects or adverse reactions from the stimulus.


Examples of sensitization include:

  • An individual developing an increased allergic response to a specific allergen after repeated exposures.
  • A person becoming sensitized to certain noises in a loud factory environment over time, leading to greater discomfort or annoyance.
  • Repeated experiences with a traumatic event causing heightened emotional sensitivity and increased stress responses.