Sensory Overload

By | June 8, 2022

All stimuli that are picked up by our perception organs reach our brain directly via the nerve tracts. In the central nervous system, the brain has the most important task. All incoming stimuli are further processed and answered here. Receptors in the various areas of perception pick up stimuli and send them electrochemically directly to the brain. From here they are further processed or give off new stimuli to muscles or glands.

Overstimulation always occurs when the incoming stimuli in the brain can no longer be processed.

What is sensory overload?

We humans have various senses at our disposal for absorbing stimuli from the environment:

  • auditory perception (hearing)
  • olfactory perception (smell)
  • gustatory perception (taste)
  • visual perception (seeing)
  • tactile perception (touch)
  • thermoreception (temperature sense)
  • Nociception (pain sensation)
  • vestibular perception (balance)
  • Proprioception (body sensation)

Whenever the body absorbs more stimuli from all of the organs of perception described above than it can process and transmit, sensory overload occurs. This flooding inevitably leads to mental and physical overload. Depending on whether this sensory overload lasts for a short or long time, different physical symptoms appear. For meanings of urea cycle defect, please visit

The processing limit or “pain limit” for stimuli is just as individual as each person. Sensory overload is therefore dependent on the quantity of incoming stimuli and also on one’s own physical constitution. Someone who has a more sensitive and finer perception is more likely to get into a state of sensory overload (highly sensitive personality).


The permanent overload of nerve cells and brain puts the body in a state of stress.

In this case, noradrenaline, as the most important stimulating messenger (neurotransmitter), controls the reaction chain of stress hormones and other important messengers such as serotonin, melatonin, cortisol, etc. It serves to activate the body under stress and to adapt physical functions.

In the case of sensory overload, however, the stress increases and the reaction chain of the important stress hormones is out of balance and the associated excess of noradrenaline leads to serious health problems in the human organism.

These health disorders begin very quietly and are sometimes not immediately apparent to the patient. And yet they increase in intensity if the cause is not identified and resolved as quickly as possible. As in an avalanche, a small stone moving down the valley releases further stones, which are getting bigger and bigger, and they go down the valley with all their might.

Symptoms, Ailments and Signs

The sensory overload shows up in very individual psychological and physical symptoms, which all have one thing in common: the increased release of neurotransmitters, which are out of balance and disturbed in their function and mode of action.

As a reminder: The reception and transmission of stimuli is a biochemical process that is regulated by various neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are messenger substances that transfer or transmit the excitation or stimulus from one nerve cell (synapse) to another nerve cell.

Serotonin is one of the most important messengers in processing stimuli. Serotonin influences the perception of pain, the waking and sleeping rhythm as well as the state of mind. If the concentration of serotonin in the body is too low, mental illnesses such as depressive episodes, anxiety and aggression can occur.

This example quickly makes it clear how finely and at the same time effectively shifted neurotransmitters work by overstimulating the brain. Difficulty concentrating, drop in performance, sleep disorders, insomnia, chronic exhaustion, burnout syndrome, chronic pain, migraine, tinnitus, psychosis and depression are serious symptoms and should definitely be treated as a symptom.


If sensory overload goes undetected for a long time and the body’s biochemical balance is shifted for a long time, damage can occur that is difficult to compensate for. It is therefore urgently recommended to carry out differentiated research into the causes at the first signs of concentration difficulties, a drop in performance or even sleep problems and to initiate holistic treatment.

Recognized at an early stage, the necessary measures can be taken and the downward spiral stopped. In the case of prolonged pain, tinnitus or depressive episodes, which are always signs of a prolonged phase of sensory overload, serious complications can quickly arise. The biochemical balance of the body has been out of balance for too long, the body shows symptoms that can only be healed with a lot of time and the right medication.

When should you go to the doctor?

It makes sense to go to the doctor when the first physical and psychological changes occur and to do research into the causes. A migraine, for example, can have various causes. Whether sensory overload is a possible trigger for migraine attacks must be clarified, also as part of the therapy.

Likewise, tinnitus, recognized and treated in the beginning, is definitely curable. Tinnitus that is left untreated for a long time can quickly become chronic. Sleep disorders or pain also weaken the body after a short time and lead to secondary diseases that take time to heal. The series could go on like this. The golden rule applies once and for all:

A doctor’s visit is required when the body shows changes that are unknown and limit everyday life. A visit to the doctor can also be seen as a preventive measure and thus contain or even rule out serious illnesses.

The path should first lead to the family doctor, who can do the first check-ups. For more differentiated examinations, the first choice is always a specialist. This should remain in close contact with the family doctor and thus ensure close care.

ENT specialists, endocrinologists, phoneaters, gastroenterologists, specialists in biochemistry, specialists in gynecology, specialists in internal medicine, specialists in psychiatry, specialists in neurology, specialists in psychosomatic medicine are, depending on the symptoms, those who can examine and treat more differentiated.


In the case of the disease of sensory overload, the classic diagnosis of exclusion is shown. In the gradual exclusion of all possible other diseases with similar symptoms, a final diagnosis remains at the end. The symptoms of sensory overload are similar to many other diseases, so this way of diagnosis must be followed. Certainly, the classic exclusion diagnosis requires more time and patience from the patient. And yet it enables treatment concepts that are tailored to the causes of sensory overload and can thus have a causal effect.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment should be holistic and different therapies should be able to work side by side. In addition to medication with certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (called SSRIs or antidepressants) or melatonin, it makes sense to also use behavioral therapy to support the sleep rhythm.

Only a change in behavior and research into the causes of stress can lead to long-term improvement. The use of herbal remedies against depressive moods or sleep disorders, supported with massages, can also be a very good first choice when the overstimulation is still in the early stages.

Acupressure and acupuncture holistically support the recovery of the body and support without side effects. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, progressive muscle relaxation or autogenic training help to meet stimuli differently and to minimize the overload.

Outlook & Forecast

A chance of recovery is absolutely possible. If sensory overload is diagnosed, depending on the stage of the disease, it can be helped in the short or long term and an improvement can occur.

The sooner the patient notices the first signs, goes to the doctor and begins therapy, the sooner he will recover. The positive side effect is being able to be more aware of your body and being able to react to the first symptoms of illness again and again in the future. The self-esteem gets additional power and strength. After the illness has been overcome, the personality changes positively.

Without treatment, it can quickly lead to a dangerous downward spiral, at the end of which suicide may also be the final solution. This is by no means about scaremongering, but solely about pointing out what can happen if the body is exposed to constant sensory overload without help for a long time.

If the physical symptoms that are triggered by an immanent sensory overload are so severe that they massively limit the patient’s everyday life, hopelessness inevitably arises.

A hopelessness that, tormented by suicidal thoughts, can lead to suicide. (Caution: If you have had thoughts of suicide lately, or if you know someone who you suspect is having suicidal thoughts, you should seek help.)

During periods of hormonal upheaval, such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause, women are generally more at risk than men. The central nervous system, which is the switching point for processing stimuli, is largely controlled by neurotransmitters and hormones. In the hormonal upheaval phases, in which the hormones in women are subject to many fluctuations, sensory overload can occur more quickly.


Preventing sensory overload is certainly a difficult task in our age, in which we are exposed to stimuli every second. And yet it is possible! It requires a high degree of self-reflection for personal requirements and for individual body awareness.

Only if I consciously perceive what demands are placed on me in my professional and private environment can I act and change something. Only if I know my body well, can listen to myself and notice the first signs of sensory overload can I change something with the help of professionals.

It is also possible to use certain techniques to select the many stimuli in such a way that not all stimuli reach the brain and have to be processed there. Because only the stimulus that reaches the brain has to be processed. Capping or redirecting the stimulus along the way is a helpful method.


Sensory overload is more an aspect related to other causative diseases that can be of psychological or physical origin. It does not normally represent an independent clinical picture and therefore cannot be treated alone in follow-up care. The causative disease must therefore be the focus and treated in order to enable follow-up care there. This is very individual and patient and disease-related.

In the case of a one-time overstimulation, this in itself does not necessarily represent a clinical picture in itself or a symptom of another disease. Many people have such unique experiences of overstimulation in their lives and overall do not require any special treatment or aftercare.

All in all, it can be said that there is no specific follow-up care for sensory overload. However, it is necessary to check whether overstimulation occurs again or frequently and to consult a doctor accordingly. The first point of contact for the patient is the general practitioner.

However, it is advisable to get to the bottom of the cause – this can mean reducing the current lifestyle, which can sometimes be too fast-paced, to a minimal level of impressions. Long walks, especially in nature, help to calm the senses and reduce the stress that has caused sensory overload. Restricting social media and television can also help to relieve the overstimulated senses and find a way back to well-being. In general, a more cautious approach to the daily workload is recommended and, if necessary, lowering it to calm the mind.

You can do that yourself

Man still decides all by himself what he wants to think and what he perceives. Consequently, he can also consciously control what stimuli he allows. To a certain extent it is up to us how many stimuli we allow.

We can turn off the switch in our head, just as we can turn off the switch on the computer, television or telephone. This means that an unbelievable number of stimuli are switched off. And everyone can decide for themselves when the flood of stimulation can begin again.

Isolation is also a form of self-help that is possible everywhere to escape stimuli. Just leave the room, visit the quiet place for a moment or go into nature. Active exit from the situation is also possible using certain techniques such as eutonic relaxation, which teaches to differentiate between internal (body) and external stimuli (environment) and to switch off the outside.

A balance to the demands of the environment is still a good and tried and tested means. Finding balance with a hobby that is consciously practiced at fixed times in everyday life minimizes stimuli and thus also reduces overflow.

It’s all about being aware of yourself. Because only those who can perceive themselves and are also valuable enough can recognize the sensory overload and change it. The patient, on the other hand, cannot change the environment.

However, he can actively change the way he deals with her and the incoming stimuli. Active responsibility for oneself and one’s body is the basis for all therapies in this world.

Sensory Overload