What is Sensory Overload?

Sensory overload occurs when your senses are bombarded with too much stimulation. This can happen from a variety of sources, such as multiple conversations in a single room, bright overhead lights, or attending a noisy party. It can be difficult to focus and process all the information coming in at once, and everyone responds differently when faced with sensory overload.

The causes of sensory overload vary from person to person, but can include those who have difficulty in processing their environment. This may be due to their inability to filter out certain stimuli. Those with this issue may find they also need more time and space for their senses to adjust before they can engage in social situations without feeling overwhelmed. It is important to understand triggers that cause this response, so they can avoid them or learn coping methods that help manage future experiences with sensory overload.

Recognising Sensory Overload

Sensory overload is an autonomic response reaction in which an individual’s senses are overwhelmed and unable to process information properly. It can occur when too many stimuli enter the brain, creating a feeling of confusion and overwhelm. For those suffering from overstimulation, the world can become chaotic and overwhelming. Sensory overload symptoms vary from person to person, but some common ones include difficulty focusing, extreme irritability, restlessness and discomfort as well as an urge to shield oneself from sensory input such as covering one’s ears or closing their eyes.

Those diagnosed with neurophysiological conditions often experience sensory overload more often than others and it is important for parents of these children to be aware of how to identify it. Parents should keep an eye out for changes in behaviour that may signal sensory overload — typically irritability or excessive noise sensitivity — as well as being sensitive to their child’s feelings by offering quiet space or time outside when possible. Additionally, providing positive reward systems for good behaviours is beneficial in helping lessen the severity of sensory overload episodes. Learning what triggers a particular child’s sensory overload is the key to prevention and treatment.


Sensory overload triggers are when your senses become overwhelmed by the stimulation in your environment. It can happen when you are anxious or stressed, there is too much noise, things are too bright, or if you have trouble regulating yourself in social situations. Sensory overload can cause feelings of discomfort, confusion and disorientation. It’s important to recognise the signs of excess sensory stimulation, so that you can find relief quickly.

The most common cause of sensory overload is having too much input from your environment coming at once. This could include people talking loudly around you, lights shining brightly in a room or other intense stimuli such as textures or smells. When this happens, it causes a misfiring in the brain because it is trying to decipher all the information coming through simultaneously and it gets overloaded. Your brain then sends signals to your body telling it to flee from the overwhelming situation even though that may not be possible, doing so will help alleviate some of the distress associated with sensory overload. Taking time to relax and decompress after experiencing sensory overload is also important for calming down your nervous system and easing symptoms of distress.

Types of Sensory Overload

Sensory overload is a state of bombardment of the five senses that can be overwhelming for individuals. Making sense of the world around us through what we experience through our senses, gives us a feeling of safety, comfort, and control. Too much stimulation in one area can lead to sensory overload, where this individual is unable to make sense of it. Each sense contributes differently to the feeling of being overloaded by information and stimuli.

Let’s start with sight as an example; when there are too many crowds present, or there are lots of visual clutter such as bright lights, moving lights or multiple changing screens; it can cause an overwhelming sensation which will contribute to sensory overload. With hearing, loud noises and sudden noises, background noise or competing noises such as trying to listen to one person talking in the middle of a crowded room may also contribute greatly. On the other hand, tasting new and unfamiliar flavours as well as overly spicy food could cause too much discomfort, therefore leading to sensory overload. Lastly, touch can play an equally important role; this usually means myriad events such as being hugged without warning, unexpected physical contact such as clothing with tags still on them or wearing wool clothing which causes prickling sensations against the skin. All these sources combined together can result in sensory overload managing.

Coping with Sensory Overload

Sensory overload is a stress response that affects millions of people around the world, making it difficult for them to process sensations from their environment. Coping with sensory overload can be challenging, requiring mental strength as well as creative ingenuity in order to best manage the condition. The first step towards coping with this is to recognise your triggers; it may take some time to understand what sort of stimuli typically leads to triggering an overloaded response, but it is essential in order to reduce the amount of times it occurs.

Identifying Triggers

Sensory overload can be a challenging issue to grapple with, as the causes can often be difficult to pinpoint. Triggering events can vary greatly for individuals, as different scenarios and contextual factors may cause varying levels of distress and feeling of being overwhelmed. For some people, triggers of sensory overload can stem from simply being overloaded; certain spaces or environments that contain too much movement or sound, can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Similarly, traumatic past experiences such as physical abuse or horrifying accidents may also be associated with triggering conditions, where even the slightest trigger could spark a potentially overwhelming memory or feeling.


In addition to the above-mentioned manual triggers, more general circumstances may coincide in a way that causes sensory overload. Other common triggers include bright flashing lights which can be very disorienting and uncomfortable for some people; certain scents; active industrial noises; large groups of moving people such as crowds at malls or stadiums; high temperatures and humidity levels which may create an oppressive atmosphere; moving vehicles with loud engines such as airplanes; and clothing labels rubbing against skin or uncomfortable textures making contact with skin. Depending on their individual sensitivities, these elements combined in one context may become too overwhelming for some people who are already dealing with certain sensorial challenges.

Once you have a clearer idea of what your triggers are, you can attempt to avoid them by changing your environment or removing yourself from stimuli-rich settings and finding a safe space to recompose. For instance, try listening to calming music if you find noisy environments overwhelming, or investing in noise cancelling headphones or earplugs if necessary. Additionally, engaging in activities and attending events similar to those without sensory overload could help boost confidence and reduce discomfort. Finally, be proactive about reducing external sensory input during these experiences; bring earplugs or blindfolds/eye masks, if need be, in order to better cope with environment stimuli that might occur throughout the day. With some creative thinking and positive attitude, managing one’s own sensory sensitivities is possible.


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Dreamlight Sleep Eye Masks provide a comfortable, light-blocking experience for those suffering from visual sensory overload. By blocking out even the smallest amount of ambient light, Dreamlight Sleep Eye Masks are perfect for those looking to create a fully dark environment. This range of masks are designed with an adjustable Velcro strap that ensures maximum comfort and a secure fit around the head. It is made of a lightweight, soft and breathable material, providing a cool and comfortable sensation during sleep, or when bright lights or too much movement is present, causing an overwhelming sensation. Additionally, this mask can be easily paired with earplugs, which helps to further block out sound, creating a tranquil space. With Dreamlight Sleep Eye Masks, users no longer have to worry about being disturbed by bright lights. The perfect accessory to help reduce visual sensory overload!

Living with Overload

Having the ability to cope with life’s ups and downs is an important part of staying emotionally healthy. General coping strategies help us to process overwhelming feelings, manage difficult situations, and adjust our expectations for advantages in times of distress. There are various methods available that can be tailored according to individual needs and some of these include taking pre-emptive rest before attending a birthday party with loud music, or theatre show, scheduling alone time that allows for winding down and recharging, and most importantly giving yourself permission to temporarily remove yourself from busy situations at the first signs of sensory overload.

Another important step in preparing ourselves is understanding how we react as individuals when faced with overly stimulating activities such as crowded environments, or sitting through long meetings. Having this knowledge on hand helps us prepare for challenges before they surface by being able to take advantage of our weaknesses, instead of allowing them to wreck havoc on our lives. Taking breaks when needed, allowing ourselves time for rest and relaxation, including meditation, being aware of potential triggers, learning how our emotions play into decision making – all these elements enable us to create successful coping strategies, while also effectively controlling stress levels on a daily basis.

Final Thoughts

Overall, sensory overload can be a difficult issue to manage. However, there are many ways to help manage the discomfort and effects that come along with it. One can try calming activities such as yoga or meditation, deep breathing exercises, and positive self-talk behaviour. Additionally, someone can reach out for professional help if they are dealing with more significant struggles related to sensory issues. It is important to remember that you are not alone in this and there is help available.

In conclusion, this article sought to provide an overview of sensory overload and how it can affect all of us. There are various techniques that one can use to help manage this issue. Most importantly, never be afraid to ask for support if needed either from family, friends or professionals specialising in this field of work. With patience and support from others around us, it will become easier to deal with these difficult moments of sensory overload.


  1. What Is Sensory Overload? 9 Helpful Tips to Manage Overload (scienceofpeople.com)
  2. 5 Tips to Managing Sensory Overload When Seeking Accommodations Isn’t an Option | Neurodiverging
  3. Sensory Overload: Tips For Helping Sensory Sensitive Children (ivyrehab.com)
  4. How to Deal with Sensory Overload: 19 Coping Strategies | The Health Sessions
  5. 7 Strategies for Coping with Sensory Overload | Multi-Sensory World
  6. Sensory overload: Symptoms, causes, and treatment (medicalnewstoday.com)
  7. How to Manage Sensory Overload in Adults – Sensory Friendly Solutions
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  • A great article, there are definitely triggers with my son and it does help to identify them so that we can work on helping him process better. I find that it does help my son to be ‘pre warned’ so that he can be prepared for certain triggers e.g. in public toilets remind him that the hand dryers are noisy so we use paper instead etc.

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