Friday, December 13, 2013

Sensitivities and Sensory Overload: A Guest Blog by Clarissa Shepherd

The holidays are a great time of celebration, but for many of us there can be obstacles to overcome at holiday gatherings.  Clarissa Shepherd has been kind enough to share her thoughts.

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Many of us with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are very sensitive to light, noise, too much movement, people talking, TV, household noises, crowds in stores or full waiting rooms in doctor’s offices, the loud speakers, music, odors: such as perfume, scented candles, or household chemicals.  Any one, or several such things, can cause nausea, heart palpitations, dizziness, or even make us feel as if we may faint. Sunlight can cause eye pain and the effects of flickering or reflecting light can also be difficult for us to handle. 

Studies have shown that being exposed to chemical or perfume odors can cause us to get emotional and even feel anger. It goes right to the part of the brain that controls many of our emotions. Too much overload, can also cause our adrenaline to begin pumping, and not stop until it is burned out. Our adrenal issue is what causes us to feel so jumpy and easily startled. Such depletion leaves us worn out from the entire experience.

When hit with too many things at one time, our brain can't absorb or sort through them and our brain actually glitches. This sends us into overload and brings on all our many symptoms simultaneously.

There's no wonder that going out, can be such a challenge. It’s overwhelming to our entire being. We go into the jungle, by doing simple everyday tasks. So keep this in mind and protect yourself when possible from such sensory overload, which can cause a complete crash.

Clarissa Shepherd founder and moderator of the Facebook group FELLOW TRAVELERS: Support and Chat ( FMS CFS/ME ) here

Celeste’s post comment:

I happen to have chronic sinusitis (one of the CFS lovely components), so odors don't bother me; I can’t smell them. However, I absolutely cannot take excessive noise such as more than one person talking to me at a time or loud repetitive type music. For these occasions I carry ear plugs with me. Sensory overload can be very distracting and even painful at times.

I want to thank Clarissa Shepherd for sharing her thoughts on this valuable topic. I am certain we have all adapted as best we can. I know if you have any helpful suggestions for ways to enjoy holiday festivities without feeling sensory overload, Clarissa would be more than happy to share them. 

Think adversity? See opportunity!

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All answers and blogs are based on the author's opinions and writing and are not meant to replace medical advice.  

Celeste Cooper is a retired RN, educator, fibromyalgia patient, and lead author of the Broken Body Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain devotional series (coauthor, Jeff Miller PhD), and Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myofascial Pain: The Mind-Body Connection (coauthor, Jeff Miller PhD) She is a fibromyalgia expert for Dr. Oz, et al., at, here, and she advocates for all chronic pain patients as a participant in the Pain Action Alliance to Implement a National Strategy, here. You can read more educational information and about her books on her website,


Anonymous said...

This is excellent! I am so sensitive to light and scents. Glare and too bright lights will start a migraine. It is impossible for others to understand.

Clarissa Shepherd said...

I'm so glad this was of help to you. My sensitivities has been one of the most difficult things to deal with from the very beginning. Sending healing wishes.

The Pained Ink Slayer said...

This is true for so many of us. Migraine is a huge comorbid condition for me too, and yes, it is impossible for others to understand and why it is important for us to support each other in a positive way. I have been blessed to meet so many wonderful and caring people because of the unfortunate consequence of living with chronic pain. Pain definitely creates humility which is a character attribute many never experience. I attended a migraine symposium and I was astounded and the number of us that also have FM. On entrance to the symposium sponsored by the American Headache Society and the American Headache and Migraine Association, they handed out wipes so folks could wipe off perfumes and scented lotions. We are each different with different triggers, but this is a big one for many.

In healing and hope, Celeste

Celeste's Website

Celeste's Website
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