Sounds like a scary episode. I have not experienced anything to that extreme, but I do find lately that background noise at normal volume is very distracting when I am having a conversation with someone. I also find I'm asking my husband to turn the TV down more often. I don't know whether I find certain noises irritating because of some neurologic/perceptual change, or if it's more of an emotional thing. I find I'm more easily irritated by lots of things these days, I think for me it's out of general frustration with my health and functioning.
I get the wanting to go into a quiet room with no stimulation. I wonder if doing this on a regular basis (like the meditation exercise that Kathy talked about) might help to fend off future extreme responses like the one you had. Training the mind to be calm and steady through regular practice. I am intrigued by this method as a way to manage pain. I'm looking into it.
I can only speak to this from the perspective of autism. We receive millions of inputs every second of every day. From infancy--or earlier--we begin learning how to ignore some of those inputs and prune away the "noise" as we integrate all of the information into something that makes sense in our brains. Imagine a brain without the ability to prune well, and you've got a brain that is overloaded with information that it cannot integrate into something that makes sense. One outcome of this is intense anxiety because EVERYTHING is noticed. Another outcome can be fear/escape response, which sounds like what you had last night. The outward response to that overload can be anything from the kind of withdrawal people think of when they think of classic "autism" to what we call "meltdowns," lashing out, seeking some other input to drown out the ones that are overwhelming. The endpoint for either response is to block the overload in some way.
I've always been this way. I cannot go to a mall and shop without reaching overload within an hour, at which point I simply have to leave. I've learned better to know that this is coming in a given situation, and I "control" myself as much as I can until I get away to someplace alone and quiet. I notice everything and receive, I think, far more inputs than most.
You mentioned in a previous post that you thought you might be nearing menopause? One thing that mediates our auditory sensitivity is hormones. There are autistic children who can hear in frequencies that no one else can, and to them, a high voice is like an ice pick in the ear. It may be that you're experiencing some hormonally influenced hearing sensitivity right now that culminates in the kind of overload you describe.
My only "advice" is that you learn to recognize when an overload *starts* rather than when you're about to "blow" and remove yourself from the inputs as soon as you can.
I've heard this termed as hypervigilance, where the senses are overly acute. Some people I know who have migraines go through this. I've also had problems with this, in particular with my hearing and also with my vision.
For me it can feel like I have "super hero" hearing. Things that should be quiet and that are happening far away feel like they are happening inside my head, with a loudspeaker! For some reason, plactic bags crinkling at the far side of a huge auditorium can seem so loud and offensive such as to make my whole body jerk.
Sometimes if this acts up when I'm out shopping or at some big event I will need to take "sensory breaks," I'll have to find a spot with less people/sounds, sometimes even cover my ears/eyes, and regroup. I guess that is along the lines of the "quiet room" that DV speaks of. I've had to leave the movies, and rather than waste the $10 I now prefer to rent and watch at home where I can control the environment.
Bio is right on about picking up on the early stages and working to adjust while you can. It's hard to judge how long a fuse you have, but I agree that it is much easier to recover from these incidents when they are stopped early.
I can't offer any advice on the physiological side of this. Hopefully someone else can help answer those questions.
Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID, also called sensory processing disorder) is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with processing information from the five classic senses (vision, auditory, touch, olfaction, and taste), the sense of movement (vestibular system), and/or the positional sense (proprioception).
For those with SID, sensory information is sensed normally, but perceived abnormally. This is not the same as blindness or deafness, because, unlike those disorders, sensory information is received by people with SID. The difficulty is that information is processed by the brain in an unusual way that may cause distress or confusion.
SID is not necessarily related to autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD). SID is its own diagnosis, but it can also be linked to other neurological conditions, including ASDs, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, Developmental Dyspraxia, Tourette syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and speech delays, among many others.
Diagnosis is increasing by developmental pediatricians, pediatric neurologists, and child psychologists. While it has not yet been included in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a discrete diagnosis, Regulatory-Sensory Processing Disorder is an accepted diagnosis in Stanley Greenspan’s Diagnostic Manual for Infancy and Early Childhood and the Zero to Three’s Diagnostic Classification.
There is no known cure; however, there are many treatments available.
The meaning of Sensory Integration Disorder falls under the DSM-IV criteria for Asperger syndrome. .
Sensory integration is the ability to take in information through the senses of touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing, and to combine the resulting perceptions with prior information, memories, and knowledge already stored in the brain, in order to derive coherent meaning from processing the stimuli.
The mid-brain and brain stem regions of the central nervous system are early centers in the processing pathway for sensory integration. These brain regions are involved in processes including coordination, attention, arousal, and autonomic function. After sensory information passes through these centers, it is then routed to brain regions responsible for emotions, memory, and higher level cognitive functions.
Since this "sensory overload" happened to me suddenly in the past month - only two times in my entire life...I have a feeling that it is the result of a lesion in the frontal area of my brain.
This overload sensation does not happen in all loud siutations or everyday. So I feel sure that it is a disturbance having to do with the vestibular system and it's signals, into the brain and out. SO...I am ruling out anxiety as the cause or hormonal. I really do believe this has something to do with MS and it's damage to certain areas. My research came up with MS in articles time after time.
I think I misquoted myself...I believe this has to do with the hippocampus area of the brain, which is in the center and on each side of the brain, which is exactly where I have a large lesion load at present.