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Sensory Overload

I used to be somewhat of a socialite. I was an editor of magazine in Austin, Texas and was always out moving and shaking. I attended art openings, balls (yes, actual balls), fashion shows, parties. In my spare time I went out and listened to live music – loud rock and roll bands. I was constantly bombarded by people, shaking hands, hugging, patting backs. And for a long time it was fine, until it wasn’t anymore.

sensory overloadI began having panic attacks and hid in bathroom stalls trying to breathe. I had to pop a Xanax before heading to an event. It just got to be too much.

So I quit and got a part-time working at the front desk of a posh gym.

That was years ago. Today I still experience sensory overload. I am very sensitive. Anxiety is a beast. I don’t like too much noise. Or crowds.

It doesn’t take too much – my boyfriend’s children playing loudly, shopping at Target on a Saturday afternoon. I get overwhelmed. I can’t breathe. My heart races. I want to run away.

I’ve learned the most helpful thing for me to do is to get some fresh air away from whatever it is that is overwhelming me. Walk out of Barnes & Noble and sit on the bench there and take some deep breaths. Go out back of my house on the deck and sit in a wrought iron chair. Feel the breeze. Inhale. Exhale.

They say knowing is half the battle. I know that I am sensitive to my environment so I know what to avoid, if possible. By knowing that I am sensitive to sensory overload I can be a bit more gentle with myself when I can’t handle a situation and have to take a break from it.

Anxiety is a beast.


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Sensory Overload

Elaina J. Martin

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APA Reference
Martin, E. (2014). Sensory Overload. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jan 2014
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