Sensory Overload - 'The Aftermath'

Just after a bit of advice and to see if anyone has the same struggle?

I love to go out and do things just like any neurotypical girl in her 20's, but it really takes it toll.

A few hours shopping, visiting friends, having dinner, all zaps my energy afterwards.

I find I AM able to do these things (however hard), where I know some may not be able to cope with busy environments and loud noises etc..and I often question my ability to do so.

Its after the event when all the problems start. It depends on how challenging the situation is, and for how long, as to the length of time I feel the after effects.

It feels like the worst hangover, a complete brain fog. Sometimes I feel physically unwell from it.

Most recently, I attended a local festival, (much smaller than the big music ones like V festival). With friends (who are very understanding of my ASD) we camped for the weekend, and I felt fine until the Sunday afternoon when it all went down hill and all my energy had been used up. I felt weak, tired, had a massive headache, and could not focus on anything. This feeling lasted almost a whole week after. On the Sunday and following Tuesday I fainted twice, which I can only put down to feeling exhausted. I have no other heath issues, and I was extremely embarrassed to say the least. 

This isn't the first time it has happened, and wondered if anyone else has had any similar experiences?

It worries me to go and do these things now in case it happens again.

Any advice or tips on how to deal and cope with situations like this would be really appreciated.

Sorry for the long post too.

  • Hi Tinny,

    I, too, get exhausted from being out for too long - especially if around lots of other people.  The physically unwell feeling is often associated with it for me, but I think - for me, anyway - it generally stems from anxiety.  I am usually anxious in such situations, even if I don't necessarily have to associate with others or engage in any activities.  And even if I'm with people I know.

    Unlike you, I would really struggle at music festivals.  I'm alright if it's a relatively sedate crowd, such as at a classical music concert.  But I know that I simply wouldn't be able to handle something like a rock concert - even if it was my favourite band - and the idea of an event like Glastonbury... absolutely not!  I'd end up ill.  Too many people, too much continuous noise, too little sleep.  I'd have to be drunk to even last a couple of hours.

    On Saturday, we had a huge event on the seafront of the town where I live.  A major airshow.  It's been reckoned that as many as 90,000 people invaded the town that day - most of them crammed in along our two-mile seafront.  I went down for about half-an-hour - but that was enough.  Crowds milling aimlessly around, noise, people shouting... the proximity of simply too many people.  At one stage, I had a very strange feeling of detachment.  It was like I was rooted there, and no one could see me.  It almost felt like they were walking through me.  Very disorienting.

    I can't say I've ever suffered from fainting fits, though - although panic attacks could probably lead to something similar.  I've had those - but have never passed out.  Have you sought medical advice on it?  I know you say you have no other health issues, but I'd still check it out with your GP.  There could be another cause.  It could well be, though, a delayed effect of such sensory overload.  Maybe others here will know better than I do about it.

    All the best,

    Tom

  • Yes I do get sensory/social overload aftermath. I think my other conditions make it worse. I know that in certain situations it is almost inevitable that I will need a few days recovery or longer but that is my choice when I don't want to or can't miss out on something. Sometimes extra rest and reducing stimulus before the event can help but doesn't stop the aftermath altogether. This link might help if you want to go to other festivals; it's not autism related but does offer tips on how to care for yourself at festivals to reduce symptoms and the ideas of resting and quiet time during the activity or event apply in other situations. Ear defenders and eye mask might help to get a deeper sleep in the tent ( getting plenty of sleep is important and keeping hydrated).