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Ptsd And Sensory Overload

Discussion in 'Other Symptoms & Disorders' started by Barberian, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. Barberian

    Barberian Well-Known Member

    Not sure how to write this. I want to ask if anybody else has sensory overload at any time. What do I mean? It's as if the normal mental filters most people have are missing or broken for me. Most people don't hear background noises after a short time. The normal sounds of a city, traffic, lawn equipment, airplanes overhead, a train going by in the distance... The mind dismisses them as inconsiquential and no longer actively tracks them. For me it's as if ALL noises have been turned up to 100% volume. Often I can't even open a bag of snacks because the noise is too loud. Eating crunchy snacks can be unbearable at times. The clicking of my keyboard is almost unbearable right now. when I watch tv, or play my computer game, I have to have the volume so low I can bearly hear it, or it's "too loud". Just about any loud, unexpected noise scares the hell out of me, I scream "like a little girl" and it takes me a while to recover.

    Sensations on my skin can give me the creepy crawlies, and yes sex can be overwhelming in not such a good way.

    Sometimes if what I am watching has too much motion, I become nausious(sp?). If I get an impression that something is coming towards me quickly, particulary my face, I freak out.

    Your input is welcome.
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  3. itsKismet

    itsKismet I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    I completely forgot about this, but there was a time as a child where I was super sensitive to sound. I remember running and hiding, it was so bad! I'm not sure if it's related, but thought I'd share as I really don't know the cause of that incident.

  4. Barberian

    Barberian Well-Known Member

    ty for the reply. Since I wrote this I followed up on fibromyalgia forums (got the idea while here). It seems that at least the sound sensitivity part is a not too uncommon symptom of fibro. Others report that just about any repititious sensation can be overwhelming.

    Yay, not only do I have to deal with mental health issues, my nervous system is in overdrive too...
    DharmaGirl, safenow, gizmo and 2 others like this.
  5. Cassandra King

    Cassandra King New Member

    Yeeeah it sucks doesn't it? I have to deal with Fibro as well...i tend not to wine too much about it but I am usually in a lot of pain...almost like I'm used to the pain. And I don't know if this applies but noises tend to get to me. But i haven't noticed it ever being as bad as you describe it. Sounds like a tun of fun :O_o:
    TLight, DharmaGirl and gizmo like this.
  6. Lionheart777

    Lionheart777 Healing Warrior
    Premium Member


    I was diagnosed with "Sensory Sensitivity" at a children's rehabilitation hospital and it is much like what you described. They said they could sell me these audio tapes that would help, but it amounts to a lot of money for what equals some meditation tapes with relaxing music on it. One can get that off of YouTube. lol ;)

    I am disabled with PTSD, so I have lots of free time. One thing I do is stay up late at night because it is so much more peaceful. I listen to nature sounds, relaxing music etc. and I have found that this makes the sensitivity a little less active during the day following.:)

    For me, it is not just sudden or loud sounds, as is common with PTSD, but also light sensitivity, sensitivity to temperatures, chemicals etc. So if you find anything that works for your condition, please let me know so that I can give it a try. Thanks.

    best of luck,
  7. maddog

    maddog I'm a VIP

    I'm another who can relate to the whole sensory hypersensitivity issue. Usually, and typically, it is sounds that are most overwhelming and distressing for me, and this can take the form of too much volume, or simply too many competing overlapping sounds and noises all of which feel as though they are ceaselessly clamouring for my attention, an attention I can't accurately divide well enough to cope with all of them.

    Strangely, I also experience a different sort of sensory overstimulation, a sort of spatial invasion of my personal space where suddenly the world can feel too close, too full of "things", too intrusive of the basic space and oxygen I need around me in order to feel safe and functional. It's hard to describe, but can drive me to virtual panic, as it can feel impossible to even accurately identify, and therefore quite impossible to escape from.

    I know to recognize extremely high and escalating levels of stress and Anxiety when this "spatial overload" becomes a problem, they are usually the times I need to take active measures to remove myself from the world for a time if at all possible, because nothing good will happen if I persist.

    sterre, safenow, Shellbell and 4 others like this.
  8. Srain

    Srain "Please don't tell me not to cry."
    Premium Member

    I can relate to this as well. I tend to have extreme light sensitivity as well as sound issues. A lot of it tends to do with what time of day it is for me and what I may be dealing with or not dealing with internally.

    It's good you are here and sharing. You are obviously far from alone of this.

    gizmo, Wanting a life and Junebug like this.
  9. intothelight

    intothelight Just Being Me

    Sensory overload is a real issue when I am anxious. Sounds are disturbing because they all blend together into some type of deafening roar that just increases the anxiety. I am learning just to control it. If it is too many people, I leave or ask them to leave. I also ask people to talk one at a time. (This happens at work a lot.) Background noise I turn off or turn the volume down. Anything to reduce the stress and ultimately the anxiety.

    When I am Depressed it is the opposite. I could be in a room with a punk concert, a million conversation, flashing strobes and I could care less. I go so far into myself that nothing touches me and I just don't care.

    The extremes are amazing sometimes. Not when I am experiencing them, but looking back at them. So basically, I have to learn to control the anxiety and Depression. I can also control some of the external factors that exacerbate them. But the real control starts inside.
  10. Yes, yes, yes! Auditory overload for me is pretty severe and almost constant. If a tv or radio is on, if someone else is having a separate conversation, if the water pipes start making noise or someone walks down the noisy stairs - my brain automatically turns to oatmeal. Can't think, can't talk. It's really debilitating. Forget being able to work in most normal work settings. Makes me look like an idiot, too. The book by Heller, Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight, fits me perfectly - sensory processing disorder, which I've read can be a fun side effect of PTSD. I wonder if anyone has been able to alleviate any of these symptoms by working with OT's specializing in sensory processing. This is the recommended way to deal with the sensory overload, but most of them work with kids.
    MomOfTwo, safenow, gizmo and 2 others like this.
  11. Is it possible that the "spatial invasion" with "the world too full of things" could also be sensory overload - visual overload? I experience this less often - I have to be pretty well stressed already, but I know it well. I told one counselor in an intake interview that there was no way that I could do therapy or anything else in his office because there were WAY too many pictures and quotes and doo dads wallpapering his office. For me, the visual effect of his office was way too loud.

    I have paid a lot of attention in my work and personal life to whether a person is more visual or more auditory. In my observation, if you are more visual (learn better visually, are artistic, tend to use visual language, etc), you are more likely to become auditorily overwhelmed and just unable to process auditory information. That's me.

    I just went upstairs, in fact, and offered the staff person at this "crisis house" a compromise - I would take my Clonazepam early to help me calm down if she would shut the f*ck up. No, no, actually I said, "if we could lower the noise level in the house." Blank stare. "... if you could try to be aware of the volume of your voice and the fact that you're going on and on and on and I can't even escape it in the basement with the door shut." Luckily she complied and didn't seem to take too much offense.

    So for me, it's only at more stressful times that visual overload kicks in, because my brain is wired to process visual stuff easily. At those times, though, I love nothing better than staring at a blank wall or ceiling - no patterns, no texture, ahh... calm. I.e, the homeless shelter director "scolded" me (yeah - I won't even go there) for not attending a mandatory house meeting. "There was a notice up about the meeting," she informed me. "There are a thousand notices about various rules and schedules and directions and procedures posted all over this building," I tried to explain. "There is no way that I could possibly take all that in and have picked up on one notice about the meeting." I think she thought I was making an excuse and didn't really believe me, but that's hers to deal with.

    I've only met a very few people who are wired to take in stimuli primarily through auditory means, but they do seem more likely to crumble (in my experience) when faced with a visual task that is overwhelming for them at that moment. One primarily auditory friend would get frustrated if someone talked with her while she was performing the fun chore of picking up dog poop in the yard. The actual visual hunting was stressful because visual is not her forte and took all her mental resources to handle.

    I don't know if any of this helps, but just thought I'd toss in my 2 cents.

    Have you had any luck with "real control starting inside," and if so what methods have you utilized to achieve that control? I would love to know and be able to replicate it.

    Assertiveness does help a lot in certain situations and I'm trying to practice it more and more - places and people who you can ask to slow down when they're talking or talk one at a time. I wear earplugs (which make me look like a dweeb) on the bus because of the radio and in stores because of the Musak and in-store commercials.

    I've learned that, when someone is giving me directions to get somewhere, to tell them once that I cannot take in auditory directions and I'll need to write them down or draw a map. I've learned to only tell them once, and that only about half of people believe me. So many others say, "No, no, it's easy. You just go...." And I inwardly sigh and let them ramble on and on while I am able to retain none of it, because they're going to anyway. Then I go ask someone else to draw me a map.

    I know this Sensory Overload or Sensory Processing Disorder is commonly treated by specialized Occupational Therapists in children. More and more I'm reading and being validated that SPD can be a by-product of PTSD, but so far I haven't found reference to OT's treating adults with Sensory Processing Disorder caused by PTSD. I'd really like to hear from anyone who knows anything about this, with either positive or negative results.

    I'm sorry. This oversensitivity is awful. And, like PTSD in general, it's an "invisible disability." It's not like you have a cast on your arm or are in a wheelchair, so strangers and probably even people close to you have a harder time understanding why you respond the way you do. Yes?
    MomOfTwo likes this.
  12. Barberian

    Barberian Well-Known Member

    Yes. I've been having difficulty with this for over 2 years now. I used to work in the navy, with and around jet aircraft. Lots of noise, motion etc. My wife still has trouble understanding at times why I used to be able to do all that, and have such a low threashold at times now.
    gizmo likes this.
  13. Srain

    Srain "Please don't tell me not to cry."
    Premium Member

    I imagine it would be, Barberian. My heart goes out to you. I am fortunate that my husband actually met me already in the deep throes of massive overload, however, I remember when I could handle so much more so my frustration level rises with each event and this part might be more crippling to our relationship than anything.

    Understanding what it is help, knowing where it stems from then working on managing it before it is impossible to contain my reaction is helping. I would like to think I'm getting a bit better at it. I hope so.

    Like Intothelight said, it begins inside us.
    gizmo likes this.
  14. Chondra

    Chondra tentative

    (slight) Bump - I found the thread I was looking for. It is great to know I am not alone!

    I was always very sensitive to my environment and for much of my life this was an asset. PTSD turned the tables on me and I now get Sensory Overload. It builds up in me over the course of the day to the point where I need to isolate myself, usually by late afternoon or early evening. Most activities must be done by midday or odds are I cannot manage them. That includes movies, music, any social activity and even the radio. (Which my wife likes to leave blaring in every room of the house)

    The severity of this condition has eased slightly over the years. But other than isolation in a quiet environment, I just do not know what to do to properly manage this symptom. My therapist is clueless, I just get a blank look when I describe it to her.

    I am trying a few things that seem to help. Number one is learning to lower my anxiety, to calm my hyper awareness. I take breaks during the day and go to a quieter location and/or just leave any active area. I also do many simple things like cutting the tags off all my shirts, sitting with my back to the wall, wearing noise canceling headphones etc.

    I plan on trying aroma therapy, to further calm my anxiety, next. There is a good thread on it that will help me get started. It may make things worse by stimulating another sense - smell, but I am pretty desperate and it is worth a shot.
    gizmo likes this.
  15. Anomaly

    Anomaly New Member

    Sensory overload has had a huge effect on me. I do enjoy group settings and parties, but I become anxious when I am not able to have time to myself or get away to process everything. It is especially worse when I am surrounded by individuals that talk fast or ramble on and on as it takes so much more energy to quickly process everything that is being said.

    I have neighbors that are troublemakers, have been in trouble with the law and are quite angry acting individuals. They frequently yell and scream at each other. Yelling and screaming continues to give me intense anxiety as my abusive mother used to frequently yell and scream terribly hateful and vulgar things at me at the top of her lungs. Nowadays, even innocent children screaming in fun can cause my heart to race and cause me to lose focus and be on guard. Similarly, normal loud everyday traffic sounds like large trucks, lawn mowers and any routine neighbors' repair work that causes any vibrations or grumbles can make me highly on edge. My mother used to frequently slam doors and cupboards and used to often throw and break things - sometimes directly at me. I have learned to wear earplugs when triggers occur. Earplugs do not cancel out all the negative sound (i.e. yelling, etc.), so I sometimes wear wireless headset over them tuned to my favorite stations so I can fully control what I hear. I was a mess before I learned these coping strategies, but now I am so much calmer. Fortunately, if I am in a setting (i.e. at a party) that I choose to be present at, loud yelling, noise and such doesn't bother me, but that's likely because I have chosen to be there. My anxiety occurs when I cannot control the stimulus. I'm not sure if this part of my response deals directly with over stimulus as opposed to my particular triggers, but they're related, at least in my mind.
    MomOfTwo, LawPhotos, Chondra and 2 others like this.

    OKRADLAK Well-Known Member

    Awful- to the point they thought I had autism. Of course, PTSD and autism both are (in my opinion) brain damage, so they could have the same reactions. It is so bad that I Have to wear earplugs to shop , to church, to go out side.
    MomOfTwo, Chondra and gizmo like this.
  17. gizmo

    gizmo Follow a rainbow trail.
    Premium Member

    I think I have this. Yesterday I passed a neighbor I hardly know. We were talking small talk about the weather, my mind went numb, I did'nt know what to say, she was saying the same thing over and over. So I finally said ok and went my way. It was weird. I zoned out. I have done this before with other people, I cannot hear what they are saying.

    Sometimes noises are too loud for me. I am so out of touch with myself I never saw this as a issue before, I just thought it was too loud for me. And other times I can listen to loud music. something to think about. Interesting topic. I will have to look into this for myself and see what causes this to happen to me. I felt embarrassed when I zoned the lady talking to me out. It was'nt important to me, and I quit listening. I just shut down. I always thought this was shyness on my part, and my inability to relate to a stranger I hardly know. Weird.
    MomOfTwo and Chondra like this.
  18. Lilly

    Lilly New Member

    Awful here too. (OKRADLAK, me too! I wear earplugs everytime I leave the house.) Some tv shows and commercials even, I can't sit through because of the sounds. What gets to me the most are mouth & throat sounds. Chewing, swallowing, sniffling, throat clearing....*shudder*
    gizmo likes this.
  19. gms1976

    gms1976 Active Member

    You are not alone Barberian. I was completely overloaded today. Thankfully it doesn't happen eveyr day, but when it does, it nails me to the wall.

    I work in a small room of cubicles so the sound bounces off the walls amplifying things. There are no windows nor natural light and it feels very shut in. They were doing construction today to make room for some new desks so there was drilling, banging and hammering all damn day.

    Then to add to thinks, we share the space with another department who has a really loud-mouthed, narcissistic director who was particularly bad today. The woman is like a foghorn, she never seems to shut up. Then there is the rest of that department whose employees are like a roving dinner party: yak, yak yak all day at the tops of their voices.

    Then there was another department who is being shifted due to the construction and they were arguing with the loud-mouthed director right outside my cubicle about office space. I wear headphones all day to create a sound wall to protect my mind, but it didn't work today.

    I tried so hard to concentrate. I struggle as it is. My brain just will not cooperate. A good friend of mine is leaving this week for another job which is upsetting as his sense of humor is about the only ray of sunshine in this miserable hole.

    By the time I left today my brain was fizzing and my skin felt hypersensitive and tingly. Voices were too loud, phones hurt my hears, traffic in the distance was unbearable. I was shaking inside, trying not to cry. I burst into tears on the way home anyway. I felt like the world was closing in on me. Right now my mind has a buzzing-type sensation. I would dearly love to hide away and never come out again.

    God, I HATE what PTSD has done to my life. I didn't do anything wrong, so why should I be the one to suffer. Wish I could just give up some days.
    MomOfTwo, LawPhotos and gizmo like this.
  20. Elizabeth-Ann

    Elizabeth-Ann Active Member

    Even before my PTSD I was what they call a highly sensitive person. HSP - It got worse of course by the trauma and triggers are much less intense to cause strong reactions.
    OKRADLAK likes this.
  21. Elizabeth-Ann

    Elizabeth-Ann Active Member

    I know what you mean. It helps me a lot to "prepare" myself for these things also, like talking to myself softly like to a child: we are going in there now, and it will be hard, but it will only last for some time. I try to preview BEFORE I go shopping or so a sort of an award: Sit calmly at the lakeside, meditate in an empty church, relax in a warm bath... that helps my body and soul to less react on the stress. It sort of takes the fear from the reactions away - or eases them.
    OKRADLAK likes this.

    OKRADLAK Well-Known Member

    This is very hard. I also was sensitive before so the triggers can be very small because I am even more sensitive.

    A shopping cart is too loud now and so I have to wear ear plugs to shop. People think I am nuts. Haaa.
    Elizabeth-Ann likes this.
  23. Elizabeth-Ann

    Elizabeth-Ann Active Member

    So I am nuts too... ;) Welcome to the club! I am in the "open doors slowly and close them quietly-club" as well - even more nuts isn't it? If I am waiting at the dentists I have my panic-attack not because of the dentist, but because a person bursts in the waiting room.
  24. kal

    kal Member

    I have been diagnosed with severe over-sensory (high senetivity) to everything: light, noise ect. I got a diagnosis for learning disorders which my university required and this is the cause of my ADHD.
    While all of this was being explained to me, I was informed this happens either by chemical imbalances or by past trauma's which I was told I have no evidence of :laugh: .
  25. moosie

    moosie New Member

    Yup, I have this, too. Mine is a case of chronic lyme disease, which causes all manner of neurological issues. Environmental sensitivity: smells, sounds. Can't talk to my wife with TV on -- need to mute it first, or my brain starts spiraling out of control, and within ten seconds I can barely think, speak, or even walk, or perform any activity requiring coordination, like loading the dishwasher.

    My startle reflex is whacked, too. You could be showing me that you're preparing to set your pen down on the table. But when it hits, I'll jump as if I've been shocked.

    There's a lot of controversy regarding lyme. Whether I have active lyme in the brain, or if it's autoimmune, the problem is inflammation of brain tissue (according to my lyme-literate neurologist). I've been struggling with this for five years, and I've seen some improvement in the last year while I've been taking clarithromycin (Biaxin). Apparently this macrolide class of antibiotics also acts as a deep-tissue anti-inflammatory. It took 3-4 months before I saw results, but then when I stopped taking it after 13 months, all symptoms returned within two weeks. So, I'm back on it for the forseeable future.

    I like the idea that I'm able to treat the inflammation, without having to "solve" the lyme controversy. I imagine this treatment might be helpful for Fibro and CFS sufferers, too. Really, I don't know where one stops, and another begins. I was perfectly healthy before contracting lyme. Now I have most of the symptoms of Fibro and CFS...

    Hope this helps.

  26. Maggiemay

    Maggiemay Well-Known Member

    So glad am not alone with this :D Thought I've been proper loosing it :s

    Realised over last few weeks, as I've become more hypervigilant/had more flashbacks etc I have been in a state of sensory overload. Hate watching TV with sound on, & even flickering of colours and bright screen can upset me. Also, just light in general feels too much for my eyes to take in & process. I can't cope with taking things in visually, or auditory - I guess as having a lot of sensory flashbacks = bodily sensations, that sense is hightened so others are being pushed away. Started hiding under covers day & night where pitch black so can't see & invested in ear plugs - too noisy just background traffic u describe. I know am isolating myself in my own lil world, apart from reality, but when feeling like this reality is just too overpowering & threatening :s

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