ADHD and Sensory Sensitivity: Managing Distractions

By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – October 30, 2023

Many of those diagnosed with ADHD are sensitive to their senses, and this can create maddening distractions. It looks something like this. Imagine you have ADHD and are sensitive to light and you’re trying to write a paper. You’re focused, organizing your thoughts, and then there is a flash of light that grabs your attention. In that instant, everything in your working memory is erased and you have to start over… UGH!

Everyone’s experience is different from others, and that’s what makes it so difficult. It seems they are constantly trying to figure things out. For example, if the visual field is over-stimulated, like a camera flash, for example, the flash grabs so much attention that it’s almost painful.

You may be trying constantly to figure things out, constantly thinking if something was different you could do better.  And you don’t know what to do with it. When the label in the back of your shirt makes you so hypersensitive, it’s actually disturbing. Even the experience of taking a shower can cause anxiety from multiple beads of water streams.

Hypersensitivity can be so overwhelming that it’s actually painful. It’s like bashing your head against the wall; it feels all-consuming. The sensitivity distraction can make you forget what you were doing before it happened, and the anxiety is a symptom of losing touch.

Because this topic is so prevalent in those with ADHD, I talked with Laura (a made-up name) who is hypersensitive to her senses. She shares her experience and talks about things she has begun to do to manage her environment, helping her to thrive.

If you have ADHD and are sensitive to your senses, please check out this podcast episode, “ADHD: Sensitive to Senses, How Distracting,”

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