What Is Overstimulation Anxiety & How to Deal With It

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Have you felt overwhelmed and overstimulated by sensory information? Could it be that you find it difficult to concentrate on a single task due to various tasks competing for your undivided attention? If so, you could be suffering from overstimulation anxiety.

Overstimulation anxiety is a condition that is becoming more prevalent in today’s society. Our phones, tv, social media apps and even those around us can overload us with stimuli resulting in anxiety.

Thankfully, there is a way to deal with overstimulation anxiety. The best way to deal with overstimulation anxiety is to first know what it is. Let’s begin!

What Is Overstimulation Anxiety?

Overstimulation anxiety is when an individual feels an overwhelming level of anxiety symptoms or stress due to sensory overload. Think of bright lights, chaotic environments, strong smells, and loud noises.

Exposure to these types of sensory information could cause people suffering from overstimulation anxiety disorder to enter a fight or flight mode. This can result in them feeling out of control or panicked. It could even result in an anxiety attack.

While the medical field hasn’t classified overstimulation anxiety as an official medical diagnosis, it is a valid and real condition that affects numerous people. Overstimulation anxiety can come with other conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and ADHD.

How Does Overstimulation Anxiety Affect Daily Life?

People suffering from overstimulation anxiety can see it significantly affect their daily life people with this condition may:

  • Experience memory problems
  • Avoid certain places or activities
  • Have difficulty focusing
  • Find it difficult to remain organized
  • Exhibit physical anxiety symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating or trembling
  • Suffer from physical symptoms like dizziness, stomach aches, or headaches
  • Develop anxiety attacks or panic attacks
  • Become isolated from the world
  • Have trouble with school or work
  • Find it hard to sleep
  • Feel on edge
  • Become easily overwhelmed
  • Find it difficult to complete typical tasks

People suffering from overstimulation anxiety can also suffer from agoraphobia, social anxiety, and depression. This and their hypersensitivity can make it difficult for them to have a typical life. In extreme cases, people suffering from overstimulation anxiety can become bedridden or housebound.

It goes to show how debilitating overstimulation anxiety can be. It  can result in sensory processing difficulties, making normal life harder. Whenever you feel yourself suffering from sensory overload symptoms, you can speak to a life coach to help you handle the process.

What Causes Overstimulation Anxiety?

stressed women with hands on head

At this time, there really isn’t a single reason for overstimulation anxiety. Nevertheless, certain researchers believe the following are reasons for anxiety symptoms:

  • Living with a prolonged sickness can result in increased stress and worry
  • Withdrawal symptoms from substances can raise anxiety levels, making it difficult for you to deal with stress
  • Using stimulants can raise anxiety levels making it extremely difficult to handle stress
  • Stressful life events such as significant life transitions, loss, or trauma can trigger the development of generalized anxiety disorder
  • A history of mental illness or anxiety in your family means you are more prone to developing anxiety
  • A history of neglect can result in increased sensory sensitivity and difficulty regulating emotions
  • Researchers have discovered that imbalances in some neurotransmitters can be connected to the development of anxiety disorders
  • A history of abuse or trauma can cause you to become extremely hypervigilant and on edge

It is important to note that today’s society is filled with so much sensory stimulation that it can be difficult for some to properly process it. This constant stimulation can result in you feeling overwhelmed or developing anxiety.

Overstimulation Anxiety: What Are the Typical Triggers?

There are a couple of factors that can trigger overstimulation anxiety. They can be:

  • Stimulating activities like using a computer or watching tv
  • Stimulant medications
  • Extended exposure to technology
  • Crowded places
  • Emotional events
  • Temperature changes
  • Chaotic environments
  • Strong smells
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises

You should note that while the triggers mentioned above are linked to overstimulation anxiety disorder, one person’s trigger will be different from another’s. The simple fact is that not every sensory input triggers a reaction in someone with overstimulation anxiety disorder.

What Are the Related Conditions?

As mentioned earlier, overstimulation anxiety is generally linked with other conditions. People diagnosed with ADHD are typically more susceptible to sensory stimulation than those who are more neurotypical. It makes it harder for them to concentrate on a single task or focus in chaotic or noisy environments.

Brain fog is also often a symptom of anxiety and stress – this leads to difficulty concentrating or fuzziness, both mental and physical exhaustion, and a lack of motivation.

Generalized anxiety disorder is typically defined by chronic tension and worry. If you are experiencing this condition, exposure to any form of stress, including sensory stimulation, can result in an anxiety attack. When folks have generalized anxiety disorder, their stress cup is full, even at meniscus. Additional stress exposure can be just too much.

People with autism spectrum disorder find it difficult to process sensory information. This can result in them feeling overloaded or overwhelmed when exposed to particular sensory input.

Tourette’s syndrome is defined by involuntary movements and tics. Those suffering from Tourette syndrome can find certain sensory stimuli to be especially triggering, resulting in their inability to control their responses to said sensory stimulation.

PTSD can be another disorder that presents with overstimulation anxiety. People with PTSD might have intrusive thoughts or flashbacks triggered by a particular sensory input. This disorder can be quite distressing, leading to a feeling of not being in control.

How to Identify Sensory Overload Symptoms

There are various ways to identify sensory information issues in people suffering from overstimulation anxiety.

  • For some people, it could be that they are extremely sensitive to a type of sensory input and find it overwhelming or uncomfortable when exposed
  • For other people, it could be that exposure to a sensory stimulus can result in pain. In another subset of people, exposure to certain stimuli can result in a panic attack
  • The most common sensory input issues experienced by people suffering from overstimulation anxiety include sensory sensitivity to touch, sound, and light
  • Certain people might also struggle with the vestibular process—the senses of movement and balance—and proprioception—the sense of where you are in space. These challenges can make daily life and typically activities such as shopping and driving extremely anxiety-provoking and difficult due to sensory overload

You should also note that just because someone struggles with overstimulation anxiety doesn’t mean they will have the aforementioned sensory overload symptoms. Every overstimulation anxiety sufferer experiences it in their own way.

Overstimulation anxiety can present with the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Panic attacks
  • Shaking, trembling, or sweating
  • Feeling your heart pound or race
  • Having difficulty focusing on anything except the trigger
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Triggering your flight or fight response
  • Temper tantrums
  • Challenges processing information
  • Nauseous, lightheaded, feeling dizzy
  • A feeling of loss of control
  • Feeling on edge or agitated
  • Thinking about escaping from the trigger

The symptoms that come with overstimulation anxiety can range from mild to extremely severe. For some, anxiety symptoms can be so severe that they trigger a panic attack. If you are struggling with one or more sensory overload symptoms, then getting help from an experienced life coach to manage your anxiety symptoms should be the next step.

As your life coach, I can help you better understand when you’re in a situation like sensory overload. It’s not you, it’s the situation you’re in. During our coaching relationship, we will work together through challenges and gain new insight to help you out of the struggle and fly above it, with greater perspective and empathy for the situation that you are in. From that generous perspective, you’re in a better place to make changes and take creative actions to help  you toward the life you want.

How to Treat Sensory Overload

panic attack in public place

While overstimulation anxiety disorder doesn’t have a permanent fix or cure, there are numerous methods through which you can learn how to manage and curtail its side effects. All of this can help increase your quality of life.

Treating overstimulation anxiety disorder can seem quite daunting, especially when you try to go it alone. The best thing to do is to have someone in your corner, with the right skills and knowledge to help you overcome overstimulation anxiety. With that in mind, here are two ways to do this.

Relaxation Techniques

This method can help you manage your anxiety symptoms by learning how to control your body’s stress response. Meditation, mindfulness, and deep breathing exercises can be helpful tools. As your life coach, I will offer counsel and encouragement throughout the process.

Gain an Understanding of Experiences and Beliefs

During our coaching sessions, we will also identify your beliefs and determine what fuels your anxiety. For example, do you find yourself embarrassed in social situations? Our coaching sessions can help you discover ways to increase your self-confidence.

Now What?

Overstimulation anxiety can be debilitating. However, there are various approaches that can help you manage your anxiety symptoms. Speaking with a professional life coach like myself can be a fantastic way to get a handle on your overstimulation anxiety or sensory overload symptoms.

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