No products in the cart.

Best Ways to Avoid Brain Injury Sensory Overload

man having a brain injury sensory overload

If you have ever experienced a sensory overload after brain injury, you are not alone. Hypersensitivity to stimulation is one of the most common TBI side effects.

Today’s article will explore the causes of brain injury sensory overload and show you some effective ways to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Causes of Sensory Overload After Brain Injury

Woman experience sensory overload after brain injury

Many factors can contribute to sensory overload after brain injury.

First, your brain is devoting most of its energy towards repairing itself. Scientists have found that the injured brain is more active than a healthy brain, with many brain regions working overtime to compensate for lost function.

Therefore, the brain has no residual strength to process or organize information from your senses. This means that even a little stimulation can cause an overload.

Similarly, your attention and concentration skills are limited after brain injury. So if more than one thing is happening at once, your brain will get easily overwhelmed.

Finally, the stress, pain, and fatigue you naturally experience after TBI can intensify your senses and put you on edge. Things that you never noticed before can now bother you and lead to sensory overload.

Some examples of sensations that might now trigger you include:

  • Background noises that you can no longer ignore
  • Itchy clothing
  • Bright lights
  • Large crowds

Overstimulation will cause adverse cognitive effects, which is why it is so important to learn how to cope with sensory overload.

What Sensory Overload Looks Like

Woman having a brain injury sensory overload in public place

Sensory overload activates the body’s defense mechanism, otherwise known as the “fight or flight” response. As a result, each person will experience overstimulation a little differently, depending on whether their instinct is to fight back or run away.

Some people will become aggressive and display other behavioral problems such as screaming and violent behavior.

Others will simply shut down emotionally and will not respond. Some might start crying or even vomiting.

Categories of Sensory Overload

Not all sensory overloads are identical. Below are the three most common types of brain injury sensory overload you can experience:

  • Immediate overload. Some forms are immediate. You hear a loud noise and you are instantly overstimulated.
  • Accumulative overload. Other types are a result of accumulation. No one single thing sets you off, but at some point, you can no longer process your senses and anxiety sets in.
  • Fatigue-induced overload. Finally, sensory overload can occur if you focus on one task for too long and you fatigue your brain. This is why, during rehab exercises, it’s crucial not to push yourself too hard.

Now that we know what sensory overload is and what causes it, it’s time to learn what you can do to treat it.

Coping Methods for Brain Injury Sensory Overload

woman sleeping on couch with headphones coping

The following are some general suggestions to help you avoid sensory overload after brain injury.

Limit exposure

The best way to avoid sensory overload is to limit exposure to overstimulation. This means doing your shopping early in the day when there are fewer people around and asking people to speak one at a time. Or taking naps throughout the day to avoid fatigue.

You’ll also want to modify your environment to give you a space to decompress. If possible, dedicate a room in your house where you can relax, distraction-free.

Know your limits

Learn to monitor yourself so you can tell when things are becoming too much.

It helps to come up with a safe word you can use with family and friends so they can know when you’re getting overwhelmed.

It’s also a good idea to pack headphones with you wherever you go. These can help you calm down, especially in loud places.

Gradually increase exposure

We know, this sounds like a contradiction of the advice above. But eventually, you will need to increase your tolerance.

You should start slow, maybe by walking in a library first before moving on to the mall.

Just remember never to overdo it. You want things to be challenging, but not overwhelming.

Besides these general guidelines, however, there are other interventions, such as a sensory overload “diet” which can help improve your symptoms.

How to Follow a Sensory Overload “Diet”

Sensory diets are not really diets in the traditional sense. Rather, they are routines created by you and your doctor that help you receive beneficial sensory input throughout the day. The goal is to slowly increase your tolerance to stimuli.

Some examples of sensory diet routines include:

  • Using weighted blankets
  • Massage
  • Chewing gum or drinking a thick liquid
  • Chores that involve the whole body, such as laundry
  • Deep breathing

Another activity you can do on a sensory diet is the Wilbarger Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique. It involves a series of brushing and joint compressions every two hours for at least two weeks.

Again, the more you expose yourself to gentle stimulus like this, the better your brain will get at processing it.

Overcoming Brain Injury Sensory Overload

Sensory overload can be a frightening thing to experience. Fortunately, with the right strategies, it’s possible to find effective ways to live free from the crushing anxiety of a hypersensitive brain.

We hope this article has helped you find helpful ways to avoid sensory overload after brain injury.

Keep It Going: Download Our TBI Rehab Exercise Guides for Free

Get instant access to our TBI recovery exercise ebook with 13 pages of exercises by signing up below!

Each exercise features pictures of a licensed therapist to help guide you.

We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

Get Inspired with This TBI Recovery Story

Independance, motivation and hope!

“My son Sharat suffered a severe traumatic brain injury 23 years ago leaving him with Aphasia and right sided weakness from his vision,hearing to his limbs. The lockdown in June was a great challenge for him as his caregivers stopped coming, no gym workouts and no outings for a coffee.

Being his mother and primary carer I feared that this was a hotbed for depression. I scoured the net and chanced upon FlintRehab. As there was a trial period it was safe for us to risk getting it across to Auckland.

His OT checked it out and felt that it was ideal. I can honestly second this.

He enjoys working on it and now after three months can do it on his own. His left hand helps his right hand. The FitMi video explains and shows him what to do, it gives him marks and applauds him too!!

He has to use both sides of his brain. The caregivers are OT students who returned enjoy working on it with him.

In three months there motivation built up in him with a drive to use his right hand. There is definitely a slight improvement in his right hand.

This encourages him as well as the caregivers to try harder.His overall mood is upbeat. He enjoys it, so much so, that it doesn’t matter if his caregiver is away.

FitMi is a blessing.”

Sharat’s review of FitMi home therapy, 10/10/2020

5 stars

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Download Free TBI Rehab Exercises

tbi ebook

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools