We are all aware of our body’s five senses – sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. These senses are crucial in our daily lives as they connect us with the world.
Sensory overload is the overstimulation of one or more senses of the body.
Though it can impact anyone, it generally occurs in autistic individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, sensory processing illness, and other critical conditions.
Let’s dive into its symptoms, causes and recommendations on how to deal with sensory overload.
What is sensory overload?
Sensory overload occurs when you get more infusions from your senses than your brain can sort and process. For example, multiple discussions in one room, twinkling overhead lights, or a noisy party can all signal sensory overload.
In these situations, the brain obtains too much information to process. As a result, sensory overload leads to feelings of discomfort that range from mild to intense.
The triggers might differ for different people, but it is a disorder that anyone can experience. However, it is particularly dominant in children because their brains are developing and learning to sort diverse kinds of stimulation.
A study shows one in six children suffers from sensory processing difficulties. In certain groups, the prevalence estimation is as high as 80-100%.
Common causes of sensory overload
The scientific and neurological definition of sensory overload is that the human brain works like a highly intricate organic computer system—your senses collect data from your surroundings and send it to your brain. In turn, your brain diagnoses this information and then instructs your body on responding to these triggers.
Sometimes, competing for sensory data comes to your brain from your environment. Your brain may struggle to diagnose all of this information simultaneously.
Practically, your brain feels trapped by receiving input. As a result, your body begins to panic and try to safeguard you from overpowering stimuli.
Therefore, the most common causes are:
- Vulnerability to bright lights
- Congested spaces
- Clangorous noises
- Specific textures
Symptoms of sensory overload:
Sensory overload can vary from one person to another. For example, some people may be more prudent to sound, while others may have problems with different surfaces. But some common symptoms include.
- Intense irritability.
- Exhort to cover your ears or protect your eyes from sensory input.
- Difficulty focusing due to competing sensory input.
- Stress, fear, or anxiety about your surroundings.
- Feeling overwhelmed or agitated.
- A sense of discomfort.
In children, the following symptoms can signify sensory overload:
- The inability to speak with others or attach with them.
- Sprinting away from specific places or situations.
- Closing the eyes, covering the face, placing the hands over the ears and crying.
- Anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.
Difference between sensory overload and anxiety:
Sensory overload and anxiety/ stress are inherently related to each other. Therefore, it can easily provoke stress and depression among individuals.
When we are anxious, our bodies experience a chemical stress reaction. This stress reaction causes transformations throughout our bodies. These transformations give us an emergency energy augmentation when we sense we are in danger. As a result, our stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, become stimulants.
This stress reaction elevates most of the body’s senses. But, in addition, it stimulates the nervous system and some parts of the brain, which can lead to a negative cycle of sensory overload and anxiety in the future. So, remember, the more anxious and stressed you are, the more inclined you are to boost sensory overload in future.
Many people say they experience elevated senses when they are anxious. However, when you frequently feel anxious, your body may not have sufficient time to recover from stress reaction changes. This incomplete recovery leads to a state of stress-response hyperstimulation.
Chronic hyperstimulation can drive ongoing changes within your body. These include frequently heightened senses, which leads to chronic sensory overload.
Managing anxiety to limit the adverse effects of stress hormone production on your physical health is essential. In addition, chronic stress leaves us more inclined to develop lifestyle disorders such as:
- Type II diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
How should one deal with sensory overload?
Knowing that your senses get overpowered and trigger sensory overload, you can deal with the condition by identifying your triggers. Here are some ways that might help you to deal with sensory overload:
1. Find Professional Help
If you are trying hard to deal with sensory overload, don’t be terrified to seek help from a professional. Many qualified occupational therapists and psychologists have abundant experience treating sensory dysregulation. They reduce patients’ responses to stimuli and provide healthy coping mechanisms. Experts might also diagnose underlying states, such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder.
2. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is essential for people with chronic sensory overload. Make sure to give your body enough time to rest and refresh. This is especially important after you have faced some stressful circumstances.
3. Set Boundaries
Creating boundaries is also significant for the chronically overstimulated. If you encounter a situation triggering you, remember you have a right to take a leave politely. Do so and find a place that is calmer and less stressful. For example, if you start a work setting, explain to people around you about the overstimulation feeling and ask them to excuse you from the room. If you have an invitation to a place where you may become overstimulated quickly, thank the innholder for thinking of you. But respectfully deny their invitation.
4. Conscious Breathing
Many deliberate breathing exercises help anxious individuals with sensory overload. Rehearsing deep breathing for 5–10 minutes at least two times a day will set the beat for your breathing. In addition, it will boost your lung capacity, allowing you to breathe more intensely.
5. Develop a Safe Environment
Your home and workplace should make you feel safe. These places must be free from overwhelming triggers as possible. You can fulfil this by working on your unique triggers to lower their effects as much as you can.
Journaling your symptoms and experiences will help you in tracking your triggers and your reactions. Once there is a written record of these occurrences, you can ask a coach or professional for help. Concurrently, you can address your primary triggers and enhance your stress response.
7. Ask Friends/ Family for Support
It is crucial to have the support of your loved ones, especially when you are feeling unsafe. Talk to your friends or family members if you feel stressed or disorientated and need anyone to talk to regarding your experiences. Building a support system with other people inclined to sensory overload is recommended. They may have some valuable tips to share that will help you control your experiences.
Understand overstimulation to help yourself and others
Sensory overload is not an officially acknowledged medical ailment. But it has real implications for our overall well-being.
Comprehending what sensory overload is and the ability to spot the symptoms is the critical indicator towards your triggers. This can help you and many others confronting this condition.
So, this was our research and knowledge over the topic, do let us know in the comments if we are able to help you in dealing with your ailment