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Sensory overload

By Onna · Oct 27, 2018 · ·
  1. Being diagnosed made me more aware of issues that I wouldn’t have previously recognised.

    I’ve noticed that sometimes when I felt overwhelmed, I generally didn’t realise that it may be due to sensory overload.
    For instance I could be wearing clothes that are too itchy or too tight, and the sensation will overwhelm. However I can be quite aloof to it. I could be tugging at my clothes as a physical reaction to the stimuli, but not realise that the clothes were having a big effect on my mood, and my ability to focus and enjoy my environment.
    I know now that uncomfortable sensations are likely making my mood irritable and can put me in a bit of a state. It can be severe enough to give me less motivation to join in with life in general. I can be so agitated that the only solution is to go to my room, shut the door, dim the lights, make everything quiet, and close my eyes for a while to switch off the brain.

    The difficulty before diagnosis was that I never recognised how severe sensory overload felt physically, because I’d ignore it as though it was background noise.
    Then because I ignored it, I never recognised that it was quite severely affecting my mental state too.

    Also the two issues felt separate. I can only describe it as being out of sync. I’d rant at my sister about how ‘my top is itchy, the tv’s too loud and I feel irritable’ never did I think that I felt irritable because my top was itchy and the tv was too loud! The irritability was just another problem on the list, as though it was the same as a physical sensation, rather than an emotional reaction to the physical sensation.

    When I started to read about sensory overload, I was given the knowledge to recognise that I should take care of myself better, and make my surroundings and clothing comfortable. And if I’m feeling irritable I should try to assess why! It seems really obvious now I’m thinking about it.

    About Author

    Female. 31. Newly diagnosed. INFJ. Single. Lost. Reflective. Observant. Interests in human behaviour, world peace, civility, animals, environment, the benefits of autism, the importance of raising healthy minds in children.
    sidd851 likes this.


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  1. allan619
    Hey, I really enjoyed reading this post, I can relate to it. When I look back at my job history, I have found a direct corolation between how long I lasted in a job and how comfortable the uniform was. The more comfortable the uniform, the longer I lasted. Yet if you were to ask me if I suffered from sensory overload I would have said no. I now realise how my mood is affected by the clothes that I wear. It seems weird that I wouldn't know this. I can't help but think my quality of life would be greatly improved if I could wear what ever I wanted to work instead of a shirt and tie.
      Onna likes this.
    1. Onna
      Sorry Allan, but I have to say that your discomfort is quite comforting to me! Haha it’s nice knowing people can relate to your struggle. It’d be nice if you could choose something more comfortable to work. It’s silly that appearance is more important than comfort for people in our situation, particularly if job performance is potentially affected. If only there was more understanding. I’m lucky enough I get to wear my own clothes at my current job.
  2. Decameron
    I'm not sure if the following helps in any way but for me it was a helpful option since I have very strong touch sensitivity.

    Part of our problem is choice. Most of the time we don't have a choice regarding touch sensations. We're touched, we have to touch things or have to come into contact with textures and surfaces we don't like. We can limit our contact but that's not always possible.

    So I started looking for something were I could choose the type of touch I experienced. It's a long story but years ago I discovered a form of juggling called contact juggling. It's done with perfectly smooth acrylic balls. When I say perfectly smooth, I really mean micrometer accuracy perfectly smooth. Even holding one of these balls was a great relief. I didn't even get them for the juggling aspects. After 10 years of practice I can now do a few tricks but I still care more about the fact that I now have a choice, I can decide to do an activity that involves touch in a way that's comfortable to me.
      Onna likes this.
    1. Onna
      That’s awesome! I love smooth surfaces! ‘Micrometer accuracy perfectly smooth’ sounds divine :)
      So you think giving ourselves an element of control over a particular sensation helps reduce overload? Sorry I’m still new to this and I’m still meaning to research sensory overload. Would you consider it stimming?
      Decameron likes this.
    2. Decameron
      Yeah it does to me anyway. Most of the time being an Aspie means being bombarded by inputs you don't want. Having control over that input gives me great satisfaction.
      Onna likes this.
    3. Onna
      ‘Most of the time being an Aspie means being bombarded by inputs you don’t want’
      Now that’s a good, precise phrase, and gives me a lot to think about. Thanks
  3. Reu
    I have been recently diagnosed and until I started learning about AS I never made the connection between frequent agitation and sensory issues. I thought I was a bad person because I was so irritable most of the time. It was a huge relief to find out that it was sensory overload that was making me so irritable and feeling out of control. It is good to know that there are things I can do about it and that I’m not a bad person.
      sidd851 and Onna like this.
    1. Onna
      I’m glad you don’t feel like a bad person, you shouldn’t feel bad for it! I used to be a pain as a kid, for not being able to cope, made worse by no one realising the problem. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learnt to keep it to myself. Apart from the occasional lighthearted rant to my sister (I’m lucky enough we mostly understand each other).
      sidd851 and Reu like this.
  4. Monachopia
    Like yourself, I felt irritable so much of my life and lashed out at others without really knowing that it's been too bright or too noisy and that was to blame! It's quite a helpful thing to delve deeper and understand the underlying cause of discomfort to make life happier for yourself and those around you. You're doing great, I liked reading your blog entry, it resonated with me as I'm sure it did with the others who've read it. x
      sidd851 and Onna like this.
    1. Onna
      Thank you! It’s comforting to me that others relate.
      I told my assessor that I’d have a hard time believing whether I was on the spectrum, regardless of what the results were. I think it’s because I know there’s always a possibility of them getting it wrong. I was only 50/50 trusting in the beginning, it’s taken me around 4 months to get to 90% trusting. X
      sidd851 likes this.
  5. Peter Morrison
    I have experienced the same in my life. As a child I thought my stress was normal. Consequently, I never recognized when stress was eating me alive. I was also very particular about how clothes felt. It's good to understand what these negative sensations do to you, and where they come from.
      sidd851 and Onna like this.
    1. Onna
      Thank you for commenting. I agree, if we understand what is happening to our bodies and minds then we can be more mindful of our needs, and acquire skills and equipment to lessen the stress. There’s nothing wrong with needing sunglasses, noise canceling headphones and soft clothes, or a quiet room etc. The only thing that is wrong is not realising that you need them in the first place.
      sidd851 likes this.
  6. Autistamatic
    Well written and informative observations. Thank you for posting :)
    Even though I was diagnosed years ago I didn't realise my sensory sensitivity was so OTT until comparatively recently.
      sidd851 and Onna like this.
    1. Onna
      Thanks for commenting. I enjoy hearing other people’s thoughts. It’s a strange (and imo mostly positive) world us autistics live in. I’d like to learn about the science behind sensory overload, I’m very intrigued by it.
      sidd851 and Autistamatic like this.