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Overstimulation After a Brain Injury: Managing Sensory Overload

What is sensory overload or overstimulation and how can you cope with it?

If you or a loved one have suffered from a traumatic brain injury, you may experience sensory overload. Here is how you can cope with your TBI.

What is Overstimulation?

The brain has natural sensory filters in place to avoid becoming overstimulated. After a traumatic brain injury, these filters may not work as they once did. Rather than filtering out unnecessary information, your brain is now taking in everything in your immediate surroundings.

When this occurs, the mind may struggle to process everything effectively, leading to stress, headaches, and more. This can be physically and mentally exhausting. Even activities that were once normal for you can be a nightmare.

Sensory Overload After a Traumatic Brain Injury

While there are many factors that contribute to overstimulation in brain injury cases, there are a few common ones that stand out. The section of the brain responsible for processing external information may be damaged. This can lead to hypersensitivity to certain types of stimulation.

Difficulty focusing or paying attention to particular things also plays a part in overstimulation. If you are attempting to pay attention to multiple things at once, your brain may get overwhelmed processing everything.

The brain puts a majority of its time into healing after a traumatic brain injury. This takes some processing power away from the sensory processing part of your brain. This leaves some more susceptible to sensory overload.

How to Avoid Sensory Overload

Now that you understand how traumatic brain injuries may lead to sensory overload, you'll need to know how to manage overstimulation. Here are just a few tips to help you manage your day-to-day life with a TBI.

Understand Your Sensitivities

Certain factors may trigger different people following a traumatic brain injury. Depending on the section of the brain that was injured, you may react more strongly to certain stimuli than others. Pay attention to the types of triggers affecting you the most.

For example, you may notice headaches forming when you are in brightly lit areas. Bright lights may be triggering your brain and sending it into sensory overload. Keep an eye out for any potential triggers you may experience.

Avoid Potential Triggers When Possible

Once you have figured out your particular triggers, cut them out of your life whenever possible. If you notice certain scents are affecting you strongly, avoid being around them whenever possible; if lots of noise makes you feel overwhelmed, stay away from busy areas. The best thing you can do to manage your triggers is to avoid them.

Filter Out Blue Light and Excess Noise

Blue light plays a huge factor in overstimulation. Limiting your exposure to blue light will help keep your sensory overload at bay. That means limiting your time spent looking at computer and TV screens whenever possible.

Excess background noise can also trigger overstimulation in some people. Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs may benefit you if you struggle with loud or complex noises. You should also try to avoid crowds and particularly busy locations to avoid sound-based sensory overload.

Recognize the Symptoms of Overstimulation

Once you notice any symptoms of overstimulation, you should take yourself out of whatever stressful situation you are in. These symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Irritability and anger

  • Headaches

  • Difficulty focusing

  • Aggressiveness

  • Dissociation

  • Emotional outbursts

If you notice yourself becoming agitated or emotional due to overstimulation, it's time to remove yourself from the situation and take some time for yourself. That way, you can avoid worsening your sensory overload.

Get Plenty of Rest

Getting plenty of rest will give your brain time to heal after its injury and take pressure off of it during the day. Make sure that you have a proper sleep schedule and rest if you feel tired. Your brain is doing a lot of work; it's only natural that you take the time to rest to help with the traumatic brain injury recovery process.

Communicate With Your Friends and Family

One of the best ways to care for yourself following a traumatic brain injury is to inform those close to you about your needs. Sensory overload isn't talked about nearly enough; if they aren't aware of your needs, then they may contribute negatively to your sensory overload. Make sure that they are aware of your triggers and how they can help you if you feel a bought of sensory overload starting.

Let them know that you may need to remove yourself from a situation if you start feeling overwhelmed. You can also inform them of any coping strategies you've developed, such as wearing headphones or only wearing certain types of clothes. This will give them the necessary information to help you cope with your TBI.

Take Care of Your TBI

Have you suffered from a brain injury or know someone that has? Do you work with TBI survivors? If so, we can help. Our new app can help brain injury patients and their caregivers. By using Sallie®, our FREE, customized app, you can track sensory overload symptoms and triggers that cause irritability, manage your brain injury better and get back to a healthy recovery process. We strive to empower patients and their caregivers to take their lives back after a debilitating TBI. Check us out today. We have personal connections that drive our passion to help individuals with brain injuries.

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