Monday, January 28, 2008

Recognizing oncoming overstimulation

Elaine Aron has written much about the phenomenon of HSPs getting "overstimulated" because our central nervous systems are so finely attuned.

Overstimulation, however, can take radically different forms, depending on the person involved. A friend of mine-- who is a very extraverted HSP-- actually gets terribly overstimulated and all out of sorts when she finds that she has 4-5 unanswered emails begging for her attention. And yet, she thinks nothing of going to a fair, with lots of people and carnival rides-- even riding rollercoasters. By contrast, I get dozens of emails every day, and think little of writing and sending 20 personal responses to people in the course of an afternoon. On the other hand, you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming to an amusement park... and I'd want to just find the quietest corner where I could watch from a distance.

We know that being Highly Sensitive is an inborn hard-wired trait-- not something that can be "fixed." However, what we can do is learn to manage our sensitivity, in large part by recognizing exactly what it is-- situations, people, activities, noise-- that most likely will lead us to become overstimulated. If we don't learn this, we run the risk of missing out on many things life has to offer, simply because we use the "I can't do this, because I'm an HSP" blanket excuse.

A good place to start-- an "exercise" of sorts-- is to sit down and identify the common threads of the last 10, 20 (or however many you can remember) times you felt terribly overwhelmed by something. The benefit of very specifically understanding your "triggers" is that it ALSO allows you to identify the fairly "out there" things you're perfectly happy doing.


Talk back: Do you recognize the specific patterns that cause you to get overstimulated?


  1. Hi Peter,
    I came across your blog while researching overstimulation in adults. I thought I'd share what it's like for me.
    I was at a relative's for Christmas day and though I started out calm, the more the day went on, although I had no alcohol and no caffeine at all, I began to feel almost drunk-that's what overstimulation feels like to me. Too many people, too much conversation even though I like them all and feel quite comfortable around them!
    I like your blog, and you sound like an interesting person. I look forward to reading more.

  2. I'm not good at recognizing the triggers yet, I just know that my bubbly, extroverted disposition takes a backseat and I get moody, moapy, and withdrawn. I usually beg to leave or keep quiet and disconnected to hold myself together until I can. If I can't leave, I end up crying hysterically in the bathroom or a closet. I think and say some pretty irrational things until the excess energy is out of me.

    1. I am exactly the same. This blog is exactly what I need to do, sit down and list out the triggers that I can't handle. I feel like a crazy person when the smallest thing will set me off after I'm over stimulated.


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