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Sensory input overwhelm

For highly sensitive people, the world can often seem connected to an amplifier.

What does this mean in concrete terms?

Well, this can result in an exacerbated perception of sensory stimuli: sounds are louder, lights more blinding and even smells can be more powerful. This increased sensitivity is not a preference or a minor annoyance, it is a fundamental characteristic of the daily life of highly sensitive people. And this sensitivity is not only distracting, it can be deeply unsettling and destabilizing.

sensory input overwhelm

Imagine a busy restaurant... the constant hustle and bustle, the buzz of chatter, the clinking of cups, the different smells of the various dishes circulating from one table to another... while the majority of people can appreciate this environment, for a highly sensitive person, it can quickly become overwhelming. The sound of the espresso machine, the glare of the ceiling lights, the perfume of the neighbor at the table: all these sensory stimuli can transform into a tidal wave that can lead to sensory overload.

It’s not that highly sensitive people hate these sensations, but it’s the intensity with which they are experienced that upsets them. It's as if their sensations were plugged into an amplifier and the volume knob turned to maximum.

What is just background noise for others is a real hubbub for someone who is highly sensitive. What is a pleasant array of scents for the majority becomes an olfactory attack for them. It can make it difficult for them to concentrate, it can completely affect their enjoyment, prevent them from relaxing, and even disrupt them to the point of feeling physical discomfort.

So of course, it is not a question of avoiding life, of cutting oneself off from the world to stay in a secluded place, but it is a question of finding alternatives to combine the pleasure of going out and interacting, while managing this increased sensory sensitivity.

Since the nervous system of highly sensitive people is more reactive, this can trigger a state of overload and increased stress, and lead to mood swings and increased emotional reactivity, even in response to stimuli that others might find manageable or banal.

This therefore requires anticipation and more careful organization. Choosing a less crowded place, reserving a quiet corner with diffused light, avoiding happy hours, rush hours or match days can be alternatives. By anticipating possible overloads of external stimuli, highly sensitive people can have a rich and fulfilled social life.

Take this short quiz (below) if you want to know if you are a highly sensitive person.

highly sensitive test

So, be sensitive! Try to regulate your nervous system and manage your high sensitivity with compassion, patience and gentleness. The world needs you. Your unique perspective, your empathy, your deep understanding, and your ability to see subtleties are incredible assets that others often lack. Celebrate your sensitivity despite its small inconveniences, it is a true gift of life!


You want to share your story, your struggles and the battles you won, and be part of our circle of sensitive and intuitive people. Come with us and let's chat with other highly sensitive people! Join the Highly Sensitive Empaths community:

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