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How Does Sensory Overload ADHD Really Feels?

Sensory Overload ADHD: How Does It Really Feel?

By John EstalanePublished 3 months ago 5 min read

People with sensory processing disorder may find it hard to do things if their senses, like touch or sound, get too strong. It is already known that this condition can be linked to autism, but a new study shows that it can also be related to sensory overload ADHD.

A lot of people think that kids with autism spectrum disorder have a lot of environmental input. But it can also happen to people who don't have ADHD. Scientists are still trying to figure out why this happens. But they've found that some kinds of sense information, like the feel of clothes and food, are more likely to make it happen.

What Does ADHD Sensory Overload Feel Like?

A person with ADHD may become so focused on a certain feeling that they can't turn their attention to other things or stop being distracted by the stimuli. It may be hard to do well at school or work.

If someone with sensory overload ADHD is having too much sensory input, they might not be able to focus on anything else. Because the feeling is bad for them, they may be restless, angry, or upset. People might pull at their shirts, put their hands over their ears, or do something else to stop the feeling.

Can ADHD Cause Sensory Overload?

In sensory overload, including sensory overload ADHD, different kinds of sensory information can happen at the same time. How each person with ADHD and sensory overload reacts to these common triggers is different. Some people may not be too affected by strong smells or bright lights, but even the smallest trigger may hurt others.

The Sensory Processing, Treatment, and Research Center puts environmental factors and sensory events into groups based on where the sensory processing problems happen. Is sensory overload a symptom of ADHD? Understanding these groupings can be crucial for individuals with ADHD and sensory processing challenges.


Most tactile problems have to do with how your sense of touch feels. When you touch things that are rough, sticky, or annoying, you can have a tactile experience. Many times, people with ADHD have allergic reactions when they process touch, especially when it comes to something they have to deal with every day.


When you look at something, your eyes feel it. You might have too many senses at once when you see colors, shapes, and light. People can feel overstimulated when very bright lights bother them, or moving lights make it hard to see, like strobe lights. Seeing things on your phone or TV screen can make you feel too much.


Hearing problems are caused by hearing or hearing aids. Noises like warnings, public noises, and loud sounds are this. Small noises like scraping, tapping, or clicking, as well as loud music, may bother people with ADHD. The main source, though, is generally loud machinery-like building work. People with ADHD and sound sensitivity may not respond when you talk to them.


Oral sensory integration is harmed when the mouth feels dry, something tastes bad, or someone overreacts to taste. Too much excitement from food textures can cause people to fixate on their teeth, grind their teeth, and clench their jaw. If you don't deal with it, sensory overload can lead to eating problems. Also, there is a link between ADHD and food.


When one or more senses are strongly impacted, allergies, headaches, and feeling sick are common reactions. Persons can also be too sensitive to smells that aren't very strong. Changing smells around someone with ADHD suddenly can also make them behave badly. Anxiety-inducing substances like pollen, dust, and scents are all common examples.

Strategies to Cope with Sensory Overload

Adolescent and adult people with ADHD have different sense issues and outcomes. As an adult with sensory overload ADHD, dealing with sensory issues requires being mindful, knowing our limits, and taking deliberate steps to ensure sensory safety. Too much sensory input is unavoidable but can be managed and lessened. Advice on how to deal with sensory overload includes:

Make Preparations Ahead of Time

If you need to go to a trigger, plan ahead. You can come in with a friend, be late or early, or stay until things get rough. Social cues and reading the room are hard when you have too many senses or the flight or freeze cascade. To keep from getting too overwhelmed, wear earbuds to block out noise, pick places away from the crowd, and go when there is less traffic, noise, and people.

Keep An Eye Out for Triggers

If you or your child experiences sensory overload, think about when and where it happens. Kids with ADHD might not understand how things that affect their senses can change their actions. Check the settings and answers before the meltdown. Ask your child how the place or thing made them feel to figure out what will set them off.

Share Your Struggle

Tell your loved ones what's happening instead of turning down invites, not answering messages, or leaving events without a reason, for people who don't experience ADHD sensory overload, falling into our heads might be hard. Say something like, "I'm getting a lot of sensory overload ADHD, this is not the best place for me." Keep this private if you want to get help.

Provide Other Options

Instead of hiding away from people you want to connect with, suggest a different way to do things. If you know that a place will be hard to get around in and hurt your senses, it might not be the best place to be social. Where else can you go with me? Is there something else that would work? Take a look at the pros.

Prepare a Pre-game Strategy

Crowded places like parties, concerts, hallways, and subway stops can be full of sensory information. Find ways to calm down to help you avoid or lessen a slump. You can focus, reassure, and calm your limbic system by doing mindfulness and self-talk before the event. Self-care, like staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and eating well can also be helpful.

Final Thoughts

Finding ways to deal with sensory overload ADHD will help you handle it. It's okay to leave a setting where you have too much sensory input to calm down. Help yourself or your child find words to describe having too many things to do.

A lot of people know that sensory processing disorder and autism are linked, but not as many know that sensory overload and ADHD often happen together. ADHD is a neurological disease that changes how our senses work. Talk to your doctor and therapist about sensory overload treatments, or grab some sensory tools at Loomini Learning to improve sensory skills.

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