System Overload - Overstimulation

System Overload – Overstimulation

The human body (typically) has 5 senses; vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. This all basically works via electrical signals being sent from the different parts of the body that detect these stimuli to the brain. Some people (for one reason or another) have more sensitive senses than other people. One person may pick up smells a lot better than another person who may be able to hear the most silent of sounds. Some people’s eyes are really sensitive to light, some people have sensitive skin that burns when a tiny feather touches it, and others might find things too salty or too sweet even though you think it tastes just fine. Well before I move on let’s keep two things in mind. One, all the stimuli that we can sense are sent via electrical signals across our nerves to the brain where they are interpreted as (for example) a picture of a vibrant sunset surrounded by swirling clouds of deep purples and fiery oranges containing streaks of light blues all above a slightly reflective aqua blue ocean or maybe the soft and rhythmic sound of classical music being played live in a silent theatre. Two, Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the myelin sheath around the body’s nerves causing passing electrical signals to be disrupted.

Common and not-so-common symptoms

So this does not just mean a sense stops working resulting in something like the numbness that is such a common symptom in MS or maybe the dulling of colors you can see. No, sometimes it seems like senses get scrambled or interpreted incorrectly. Maybe something that you know should feel cold feels hot? Or feels like electricity? When you really think about it, we are capable of sensing so much stimuli in the world and because our body is constantly detecting the immense amount of stimuli that is bombarding our bodies 24/7 there are a lot of electrical signals traveling to our brains for interpretation. And when all the “wires” in our body are chewed up and the lesions in our brains have created road blocks and detours for these electrical signals? It’s no surprise that certain signals may cross paths or get mixed up.

Do you ever feel overstimulated?

But I only brought that all up to set up the point I am really trying to make. Do you ever feel overstimulated? Like there is just too much input for you to bare? Most the people I talk to feel this way about sound much like I do. Everything sounds so loud! Someone could drop a pencil on the floor of a quiet library and I would jump like a car unexpectedly honked its horn behind me. I also (sometimes) have a really hard time differentiating the sources of sounds, by which I mean, if I am 5 feet away from you trying to have a conversation and the TV is on in the same room it all sounds like it’s coming from one source at the same volume so I will not be able to really understand what you are trying to say to me. Or it would be like setting up two radios right next to each other set at the same volume but playing two different songs. It is just overwhelming!

Like a panic attack

Another problem I have is with visual stimulation. If there is too much to look at like a packed grocery store isle or a crowded airport, my vision starts to blur, I will feel dizzy, and sometimes even develop a bit of anxiety. When I find myself in a busy crowd I will not only feel anxious but claustrophobic like there is not enough air in the room and what air there is contains a thick cloud of germs. I thank the germophobia bit on the fact that I am now slightly immunocompromised (yay MS medications/therapies). Now mix this with my sound sensitivity and what do you get? Pretty much just a fun-filled panic attack. Visual stimuli, sound, smells, the feeling of people bumping shoulders with me, and the obvious stress that comes along with all that means there are a lot of electrical signals firing around inside my brain and sometimes that overstimulation makes me feel like a very complicated computer going into system overload; everything just crashes and stops working.

 Do you have issues with over stimulation? How do you deal with it?

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Comments

View Comments (8)
  • Julie
    2 years ago

    I know exactly what this is!
    I can’t go to a store, especially a big box store. The overhead music, the intercom system, people all around me talking, kids screaming/crying, all the colors and decisions
    I need to make, even the fluorescent lighting is too much for my system. I never use to be like this. But I simply can’t deal with it anymore.

    One of the best ideas anyone had was I can now order my groceries online, drive up to their delivery door and they will bring my groceries out to me, even load them in my car! Almost all the large groceries around here have this service. Bless the person who created this. They only add a $5 service fee, well worth it as far as I’m concerned.

  • potter
    2 years ago

    When I was diagnosed I had a sore elbow and crazy sensations in my arm, water spraying it in the shower felt ice cold, wind blowing was hot. The doctors thought I had a pinched nerve in my elbow, but I past that test. I had so much ALS and MS in the family the neuro decided to check me for MS. I had five lesions when I was diagnosed. I still get sharp and painful stabbing sensation and sometimes my hand or foot will start twitching from the pain. Potter

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    That sounds more like “paraesthesia” and maybe a bit of “myoclonus” with the twitching. Either way, I had a lot of that when I was first diagnosed, it was overwhelming for sure!

  • mckennamagoo
    2 years ago

    Wow, everything is totally me! Sometimes if I scroll too fast on my pc I can get dizzy. One of the worst is when my daughter – or anybody really- is chewing food, i absolutely have to have the tv loud or music on- and i know she does not eat like a piglet, but the sound comes across like a speaker next to my ear. My best friend has 3 kids, and in their living room they have 2 large screen tv’s – one for us to watch and another for the boys to play video games- and I find myself coming out of my skin! I love them all with every fiber of my being, but sometimes I find myself getting very snippy and I hate when that happens- definitely coming back to see if any helpful suggestions get posted!

  • gardenguru
    2 years ago

    Just another perspective. I have MS yet have always been sensitive to the stimuli
    everyone is describing. Some of our response can be attributed to being a “Highly
    Sensitive Person” ( great book on the subject) Whatever the cause it’s just plain uncomfortable and distracting.!!!

  • mckennamagoo
    2 years ago

    For some reason, background noises take center stage, and I lose all concentration. I feel like I have dementia… ouyyy

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    Funny, I also just can not stand the sounds of people chewing food. Like you are in a movie theater, the lights just dimmed, it is silent as the movie gets ready to start and what do you hear? Nothing but a few people chewing popcorn. It sounds so loud to me, I hate it! When I am watching something with someone and eating something at the same time? I have to stop chewing during a moment of silence on the screen because even the sound of myself chewing drives me up the wall!

  • Treeantics
    2 years ago

    Heightened startle response is how it was described to me. I just tell people that but it doesn’t help after I’ve scared someone when they just said hello from behind me.

    I also say things out loud without realizing it too! All I can do is laugh it off or apologize if I sense I’ve offended someone…

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