What is sensory overload?
Sensory overload can happen to anyone, with every individual having different triggers. It occurs when too much information from the five senses is sent to the brain to be processed at once. As the brain is trying to process too much, it can’t prioritise or identify the sensory information it needs to focus on. For children, sensory overload can feel more intense and can be much harder for those with a sensory processing disorder.
Although anyone can experience sensory overload, it is associated and experienced more frequently by those who have certain conditions such as autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.
What causes sensory overload?
As your brain can’t properly process all the competing sensory information that is being sent to it, a message is sent to your body that you need to try and stop receiving some of the sensory input experienced. Some of the most common triggers and causes of sensory overload are listed below:
Loud noises and often noises coming from multiple sources.
Bright and strobing lights, spaces that are very crowded and also scenery in which frequent changes are being made.
Smell & Taste
Strong smells and spiced foods/aromas
Being touched by another person and tactile engagement from textiles or objects.
Symptoms of sensory overload
Everyone’s triggers are different when it comes sensory overload and so are the symptoms, however, below are a few common symptoms of sensory overload to help you identify if it should occur in someone who needs your assistance:
- High sensitivity to any objects against the skin, including clothing
- Restlessness and visibly showing the inability to settle
- Lack of focus and concentration due to discomfort
- Physically shielding the eyes, covering the ears or pinching the nose
- Feeling tense and frustrated
- Fear and anxiety over the current environment
What does sensory overload feel like?
Any individual experiencing sensory overload will feel overwhelmed, scared, or exhausted. In order to help reduce these feelings, they may need to leave a space or environment, so they can try and recuperate away from the trigger.
How to reduce sensory overload
If you are aware that someone’s senses often get overwhelmed and have triggered a sensory overload in the past, the best way to reduce the effects of the condition is to learn to recognise the triggers that cause the reaction. This will only get better over time, and you will learn to spot trends and connections between triggers to help understand causes for that individual more and more.
As well as removing an individual from an environment that they could find triggering, sensory products are another great way to try and relieve symptoms of sensory overload.
Below is our list of the top 5 sensory products you can use to help anyone experiencing sensory overload. Each of these products can calm and soothe users, whilst also giving them something to engage and focus on in order for them to restore themselves after feeling overwhelmed:
In order to create an entirely safe space for users, where they can be calm, explore and even develop new skills, sensory rooms full of complementary sensory products for use whenever they are feeling particularly scared, overwhelmed or drained, is a great option. To discuss any of these products or the idea of sensory rooms with one of our experts, please just contact us.