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What Is Overstimulation?

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Summary

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Overstimulation is when you have too much sensory input, like loud noises, bright lights, or lots of people talking, and it makes you feel overwhelmed. It can be hard to focus, and you might feel anxious or stressed. To avoid overstimulation, take breaks from intense things and find quiet, calm places to relax.

Frequently Asked Question

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What causes overstimulation?

Overstimulation can be caused by a variety of sensory inputs, including loud noises, bright lights, crowded places, and constant stimulation from media devices.

Who is most affected by overstimulation?

Anyone can be affected by overstimulation, but it can be especially challenging for children, people with autism, and those with sensory processing disorder.

How can overstimulation be managed or avoided?

Overstimulation can be managed or avoided by taking breaks from intense sensory experiences, finding quiet and calm places to relax, and using tools such as earplugs or hats to block out sensory input.

Scientific Definition

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Overstimulation is when your senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell) get too much input at once. It’s like when you go to a loud, busy, and bright place, and it makes you feel overwhelmed. This can make you feel anxious, stressed, or even scared. When you’re overstimulated, it can be hard to focus on anything, and you might feel like you want to get away from the chaos and activity. It’s like being bombarded with too much information all at once. This can happen when you have too much sensory input, like loud noises, bright lights, or a lot of people talking at once. Overstimulation can affect people of all ages, but it can be incredibly challenging for children and people with autism or sensory processing disorder. To avoid overstimulation, taking breaks from things that are too intense is essential as finding quiet, calm places to relax.

Treatment to Help with the Symptom Overstimulation

Managing overstimulation requires effective strategies to alleviate symptoms and create a calmer environment for individuals. Here are treatment options to alleviate symptoms of overstimulation:

  • Create a quiet space: Designate a specific area in your home where your child can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Fill it with comforting items like soft blankets, noise-canceling headphones, or calming sensory toys.
  • Use visual aids: Implement visual schedules, charts, or timers to provide clear structure and predictability. This helps your child understand what to expect and reduces anxiety.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises: Teach your child deep breathing techniques to help them regulate their emotions and calm their sensory system when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Limit exposure to triggers: Identify and reduce exposure to stimuli that consistently lead to overstimulation. This could include avoiding crowded places, loud noises, or bright lights when possible.
  • Implement sensory breaks: Introduce regular breaks throughout the day to allow your child to recharge and reset their sensory system. These breaks can involve engaging in calming activities like reading, drawing, or listening to soft music.

The long-term prognosis for individuals with overstimulation varies depending on the underlying conditions and individual needs. However, with proper management techniques, many individuals can significantly improve their ability to cope with sensory overload and lead fulfilling lives.

Conditions Associated with Overstimulation

Overstimulation can be associated with various conditions that affect individuals’ sensory processing abilities. Here are some conditions associated with overstimulation:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Individuals with ASD often have heightened sensory sensitivities, making them more prone to overstimulation.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD): SPD is a condition where individuals have difficulty processing and responding to sensory information, leading to overstimulation in certain situations.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Individuals with ADHD may experience sensory overload and have difficulty filtering out distractions, contributing to overstimulation.
  • Anxiety Disorders: People with anxiety disorders may have heightened sensitivity to their surroundings, making them more susceptible to becoming overwhelmed and overstimulated.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Individuals with PTSD may experience heightened sensory reactivity, leading to overstimulation and triggering of traumatic memories.

Recognizing the conditions associated with overstimulation can provide valuable insights into the specific needs of individuals who are prone to sensory overload. Goally, our tablet, helps kids with overstimulation through visual schedules, AAC, gamified learning, and apps for emotional regulation, executive functioning skills, and social skills training.

 

This post was originally published on Feb. 11, 2023. It was updated on July 12, 2023.