Sensory Overload from medical news today
Sensory overload is the overstimulation of one or more of the body’s five senses, which are touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste.
Sensory overload can affect anyone, but it commonly occurs in those with autism, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sensory processing disorder, and certain other conditions.
Keep reading to learn more about sensory overload, including the symptoms, causes, and potential treatments.
What is it?
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Common symptoms of sensory overload include a sense of discomfort, loss of focus, and an inability to ignore loud sounds.
Sensory overload happens when one or more of the body’s five senses become overwhelmed. It can happen, for example, in a crowded restaurant, when the radio is too loud, or when a passerby is wearing a strongly scented perfume.
In these situations, the brain receives too much information to be able to process it properly. Sensory overload leads to feelings of discomfort that range from mild to intense.
Everyone experiences sensory overload at some point in their lives. Some children and adults, however, experience it regularly. For these individuals, everyday situations can be challenging.
Even going to the school or office cafeteria can lead to sensory overload. The sounds of people talking loudly, strong smells of food, and flickering fluorescent lights can all trigger feelings of being overwhelmed and uncomfortable.
The symptoms of sensory overload vary from one person to another. Some people may be more sensitive to sound, for example, while others may have issues with different textures.
Common symptoms include:
inability to ignore loud sounds, strong smells, or other types of sensory input
a sense of discomfort
anxiety and fear
extreme sensitivity to clothing or other textures
feeling overwhelmed or agitated
loss of focus
In children, the following signs can indicate sensory overload:
anxiety, irritability, and restlessness
avoiding specific places or situations
closing the eyes
covering the face
placing the hands over the ears
the inability to converse with others or connect to them
running away from specific places or situations
Sensory overload occurs when the brain struggles to interpret, prioritize, or otherwise process sensory inputs. It then communicates to the body that it is time to escape these sensory inputs. This message causes feelings of discomfort and panic.
In some people who experience sensory overload regularly, such as those with sensory processing disorder, there may be a biological basis for these processing problems.
One study indicates that children with sensory processing disorder have quantifiable differences in their brain structure. The researchers suggest that this points to a biological underpinning to sensory processing problems.
However, not everyone who experiences sensory overload will have these structural differences.
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