Sensory Overload

Let’s talk a little bit about sensory overload. It definitely can be a symptom for people with ADHD and can be experienced to different degrees in different ways. Sometimes when we’re feeling overwhelmed, sensory overload can be a cause or contributing factor. It can be experienced through any of our senses, though smell and taste are probably not as common since we have much more control over the things we taste and smell- though some tastes and smells can be so overwhelming due to their intensity, we all can experience the overload of these senses unexpectedly.  Let’s break down the big three: sight, sound, and touch.


Sometimes we can get so overwhelmed or anxious it just feels better to close our eyes for a while. We can get overwhelmed by all the visual stimuli around us- too much information presented in a messy way, too much screen time, too many colors, too big of a space, too much light, too much dark, too many things moving around you, too much clutter, etc. There can just be too much to see and it’s a lot to process!


This can range from the obvious everything is too loud to everything is too quiet. Different kinds of sounds with different intensities and qualities can lead to overload. It can be too many people talking over each other, too loud of music, city noise, animal noise, an otherwise very quiet environment but one very specific noise that is technically quiet but is distracting and feels loud, bodily noises, types of music, living/working environment noises- any noise to any intensity or consistency can cause it.


I think I’ll use the word ‘feel’ as opposed to ‘touch’ in this section to describe what I’m talking about. This one can be associated with a lot of bodily physical discomfort. It can be experienced through the way different clothing fabrics feel, the feeling of the ground on your feet, temperature (too hot or cold), an itchy tag, being sweaty, sticky, greasy, wet, dry, itchy, etc. There may also be physical reactions to general overwhelm and anxiety to consider as well, so thinking about the cause or source of the physical sensation overload is important as well.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take some time to check in with yourself to see if there is any sensory overload contributing or causing the overwhelm. What is causing the overload? How does the overload feel? What do you need to do to lessen the overload? Is a break necessary? What is in your control to mitigate the overload? What will help?

If you are concerned about sensory overloads, or perhaps experience physical pain with this overload, you may want to talk to a medical professional as well to potentially rule out other conditions that are contributing to this overload or pain. The mind and body are connected so it’s good to cover your bases when it comes to what is bringing you distress.

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