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MS Voices: What Triggers Your Sensory Overload?

Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have symptoms that aren’t talked about very much. One of these is sensory overload. When surrounded by too much noise, exposed to too many visual stimuli, or put in new or loud environments, many people with MS report experiencing confusion, fatigue, and pain.

Sometimes, sensory overload is related to myoclonus, a stimulus-sensitive symptom that can cause involuntary jerking of muscles.

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We asked our MS community on Facebook what their triggers for sensory overload are. Read on to see what they said.

Noise

ms voices

“Noise in closed areas, such as parties, classrooms, malls, stores, etc. As long as I can leave the environment, I will be OK.” — Esther D., living with MS

“Noise! I can feel like my head is collapsing.” — Rhonda L., living with MS

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“Noise of any sort. My cat meowing at me can freak me out at times." — Amy M., living with MS

“Someone chewing crunchy stuff.” — Deanna L., living with MS

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“I get overwhelmed with too much background noise, especially if someone is trying to talk to me. And with two small kids, there is always background noise!” — Brandi M., living with MS

“I cannot stand any loud noise. Even my dog barking gets to me.” — Ruth W., living with MS

Stores

ms voices

“The common one is when the work environment gets loud and busy, but the newest, and one that seems the strangest, is any warehouse type store. The extremely tall and long aisles, even when they're practically empty.” — Amy L., living with MS

“Large crowds. Bright big stores. Sometimes I go to the store, walk in, say ‘nope,’ and go home.” — Bonnie W., living with MS

“The grocery store and heavy traffic. Makes me feel scatterbrained and ‘lost.’” — Amber A., living with MS

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Unfamiliar spaces

“An environment I'm not used to, physically and/or mentally. Still don't know how to deal with them.” — Rona M., living with MS

“Being away from home too long. I get very anxious.” — Sherri H., living with MS

Fatigue

“Being tired can trigger it, real bright lights, a lot of motion, lights, noise at the same time, trying to listen and talk in a setting with other input.” — Kelly H., living with MS

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“Fatigue is probably the number one cause of my sensory overload, but it's not always the culprit. If there are too many noises at once, they all seem to be competing to be the loudest, resulting in complete overload. In turn, I become a complete wreck. Tremors, feeling extremely uneasy, and anxious. All this holds true with an overload of any other sensual stimulus or combination of sensory overload events.” — Gail F., living with MS

“Someone who sits next to me and talks nonstop, especially in the late afternoon when extra fatigued, or just loud people with lots of energy … I'm like chocolate on a hot pavement … I melt down to a mess.” — Lisa F., living with MS

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Restaurants

ms voices

“In restaurants, I request not to be seated directly under a speaker. Music, combined with people's voices and kitchen clatter, drives me crazy.” — Connie R., living with MS

“Dinner at Texas Roadhouse with all the birthdays and singing and celebrations. Just gets to be too much!” — Judy C., living with MS

“Noise coming from multiple directions and high-pitched sounds like the clanking of dishes and silverware together, or children screeching. Restaurants with high ceilings and open kitchens are the worst for me because every sound just feels multiplied.” — Erin H., living with MS

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Crowds

“Being in a crowd or a loud room where I'm unable to tune some of the noise out. Hustling and bustling crowds are the worst between the sounds, the people, and my balance issues.” — Cindi P., living with MS

“Too many voices at once.”— Robin G., living with MS

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Too many things to count

“Bright lights, too loud, children screeching, hot with odd smells, some industrial sounds, sometimes even reading can be too much if the lights are wrong or the setting is overwhelming.” — Alysin P., living with MS

“Going to the grocery store, being tired, the doctors telling me too much all at once, restaurants, people who don’t control their screaming, running kids.” — Stacy N., living with MS

“Large stores with a lot of color and visual stimulation; flashing or strobe lights especially in the dark; too much, too loud, or specific types of noise such as screeching or sirens; crowds or fast-paced and bustling activity.” — Polly P., living with MS

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