Saturday, January 3, 2009

Article: Sensory Overload - An Insider's Perspective

Hi and Welcome to 2009.

There was a great article on Sensory Overload posted yesterday that I feel I need to draw your attention to;

The Post in Question is;

Sensory overload: An insider’s perspective
and the Blog itself is called Asperger Journeys.

I'd highly recommend it.

This post says a lot about sensory overload that I hadn't really given much thought to. For instance, the words Sensory Overload had always triggered the notion of "shutdown" in me.

Since I very rarely experience shutdown, my natural extreme reaction is generally meltdown, I figured that I didn't experience Sensory Overload. From the description in this article however, I'm beginning to wonder if I do. Perhaps it doesn't have to reach boiling point before it's called an overload.

Certainly, I often find myself in a crowded place with my skin tingling and my head racing like I've got a fever. In those environments, a touch is extremely irritating and uncomfortable. Surprisingly, even loud (and sometimes soft) noises affect me - and don't forget, I'm deaf.

I can only ignore these feelings for a short while before I need to get outside alone - or somewhere equally isolated in order to calm down.

Another really familiar thing about this post is the notion of mental blanking. I find that this happens to me too during periods of "sensory overload". We watched a DVD last night which was defective and in one part, the conversation was stilted (people were talking in part words it.. al...m..o..s.....t impos...ib..le to follow).

That's sort of how my thoughts become in an overstimulated environment. I can't even follow one conversation, let alone the multiple ones in the room. Funnily enough, I don't have this problem in meetings, only at unstructured gatherings like parties and (sometimes) during shopping.


bloke_with_a_ute said...

It's hard for me to pick where it is that overload catches me out. Meetings, I'm usually prepared for, but still sometimes I get caught out. Supermarkets or malls - the stimulus level can very quickly exceed whatever defences I have in place. Parties or social gatherings, I'm always on my guard and defensive. In those situations I'm more likely to get caught over responding than suffering overload and retreating.

Reading the source article, I'm left wit the impression that there's a fair amount of rationalisation wrapped around experience. Like so much of the writing around Asperger's adults struggling to deal with life, there's more explanation than rational discussion of how to deal with things. But, hey, I can't do any better. I just go on reading reading looking for new inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that January is the #1 month for breakups? I keep worrying that my NT girlfriend will dump me. Our relationship is already rocky as it is due to my AS, but it has become harder for her because I have been having plenty of episodes of sensory overload due to holiday stresses.

Anonymous said...

Hi bloke_with_a_ute,

I'm the author of the source article on sensory overload. I took your comments seriously regarding the need for a discussion of how to deal with things, and I wrote two pieces addressing the practicalities--one about managing sensory overload, and another about creating a sensory-friendly home environment. They're both posted on my blog,, if you're interested...


I am so excited to find this blog!

Anonymous said...

I'd bet that with meetings you have an easier time because typically people take turns talking and they're usually held in a controlled environment like a meeting room.

People have noted that I'm incredibly talkative one on one, in meetings, and similar settings however as soon as you get me into a social situation like a party, bar or dinner with a group in a restaurant (or even one on one in a restaurant) I go near silent. Primarily I've found it's due to the inability to filter out all the noises and distractions such that I can hear what people are saying and typically in sensory rich environments I struggle to hear the person next to me let alone a few feet away

Gavin Bollard said...

I'm not sure that it's the inability to hear that is a problem in group gatherings. I'm partially deaf myself, so I rely quite a bit on lip-reading. As a result, I'm usually able to follow conversations in loud and crowded circumstances more easily than others.

It doesn't make me any better at dealing with them. It's the distratabilty that is the problem and I'll find myself following conversations across the room instead of those in front of me.

I also don't know how or when to interject and frequently start to say things before tailing off because someone talks over the top of me or because I feel like I'm suddenly "boring" them.

Meetings are different. There's a lot less distractions and I don't have to work quite so hard to stay on topic.

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Daniel E said...

Unfortunately the article is no longer on the web :-(

I find that rather than have a sensory overload (when shopping, especially when very busy) I actually enjoy it, as there's so much that my curious mind can observe.

I find that this can over-ride the avoidance of touch, noise etc, as my mind is distracted by all the data coming in and analysing it.

Gavin Bollard said...

Unfortunately Rachel pulled her blog off the web only a day ago as part of a name change to support the removal of the word "Aspergers" from the DSM V.

Daniel E said...

It's been removed? Why?!

Gavin Bollard said...

The site owner for that article has changed her web address from to something else.

I don't know what the new name is... yet.

Anonymous said...

I met someone I really liked last year, he was charming and sweet, but there was something odd about him just couldn't figure out what it was/ it took me awhile to find out what was wrong with him. now I know and he knows it and he wont bother with me anymore. I miss him so much don't know what to do.

E. Agarwaen said...

noise not always overwhelming?
when i've seen this more clearly is when i had to go to a club, or whatever. i remember a time, a year ago, perhaps, when i stood for like 5 minutes alone, not moving, in the middle of a room in a club... so awkward.
however, the furthest from this happens when i go to a concert. i love the loud music, and the touching and crowding stops being annoying 2 or 3 songs through. the only time people has been a real problem was a time when i literally got lift off my feet for like a minute.
does this happen to anybody else? is it relevant, even? or just a curiosity