Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Itchy: Reasons for ADHD or ASD Meltdowns

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a very real neurological disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3% to 5% of children have ADHD, while other experts believe it could be more. Along with ADHD, people may experience anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, sleep disorders or depression.

Kathy Marshack Autism Researchers have discovered that ADHD is, in part, caused by the brain’s inability to release enough neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the chemicals that enable us to be attentive and in control. I’ve written a comprehensive blog post about ADHD that you can read here, to learn and understand more about it.

Along with attention-deficit and hyperactivity, a common trait is hypersensitivity. Bright lights, loud noise and scratchy clothes are a thousand times worse for a person suffering from ADHD than for us. They can’t just ignore it and move on, like we can.

ADDITUDE Magazine published an interesting article with people suffering from ADHD telling about their sensitivities:

  • Tactile Sensitivities: clothing tags, jewellery, etc.
  • Auditory Sensitivities: ticking clocks, dripping taps, cutlery scraping the plate, etc.
  • Olfactory Sensitivities: perfume, hairspray, diesel fumes, petrol fumes, body odor, etc.
  • Visual Sensitivities: flickering lights, halogen lights on emergency vehicles, leg wiggling, etc.
  • Claustrophobic Sensitivities: crowded places, elevators, supermarkets, etc.

If these hypersensitivities are interfering with the ability to function in daily life, people suffering from ADHD should consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I wrote about the different types of therapy in this blog post.

Can a child have both ADHD and ASD? Yes, and a delayed diagnosis of autism delays vital treatment. ASD and ADHD are different neurological disorders, however they do have some symptoms in common. Which similar symptoms do Autism and ADHD have?

  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Inattentive
  • Social awkwardness
  • Difficulty in interactions with others

Do you suspect a family member of having ADHD and/or “Asperger Syndrome”? The cycle of frustration and failure can be broken with proper treatment. Please, I urge you to seek help immediately. Knowledge is power, so learn all you can about ADHD and/or ASD. The more you understand, the more supportive you can be. 

If you are a friend, partner or family of an adult on the spectrum, please join our private community, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD, to learn more, but also to talk and to get support from people with similar life challenges as yours.

6 Replies to “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Itchy: Reasons for ADHD or ASD Meltdowns”

  1. I have a 28-year old son that I am sure is on the AS. Reading about sensitivities to sounds is just one more “tick” in the box of self-diagnosing my son. Where do I go for help in my community? How can I get support for myself (besides this website) as well as him? He is unable to look for work and sits at his computer 14+ hours of the day (he lives with me, his mom). He has a degree in music, is talented, but unable to do some basic necessary life skills. I am close to breaking down in desperation to find some help for us. Thanks for any support systems you can send my way. We live in Victoria British Columbia Canada.

    1. First, even before you think about helping your son, please consider helping yourself. Join our group and find others in the same situation. There is a lot of healing going on at our website Your son will make more progress if he has a mom who has a whole life.

      Next, check out ASAN, Autism Spectrum Area Network. You can find them on the Internet and at Meetup. Also I would contact your local Autism Society. But as you know resources are slim.

      One thing I do know is that we have members in Victoria. So I am absolutely certain that you are not alone. Hang in there.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Kathy, for your reply and giving me some resources to turn to. I am a member of your online group and appreciate reading your blog posts
    I will check out the site you recommended – thank you.
    If anyone is in this membership group and lives in Victoria, I would so much appreciate connecting with you.

    Thank you all for your encouragement and ray of hope you extend by telling your own stories.
    ~ Wynne

  3. Sensitivity to touch is something I have observed with ASD people. My sister-in-law is very Aspergic and whenever she travels will fiddle and fuss around to get quite comfortable for her needs. Her son has Aspergers but was not too bad when he lived with us for a year. The ASD comes I am sure from her father, my late father-in-law whom I never met as he died young years before I met his younger daughter my wife. She is not Aspergic but guess what, neither was or daughter but her oldest son is. I often go to help with dinner and bed time routine for our grandsons and he is starting to display discomfort when being washed and towel dried and will loudly voice his discomfort whereas his younger brother has no problems.

    1. I hope you can help those young ones John. They deserve a chance. ASD is not easy to spot in children that are bright and capable in other ways.

  4. I cannot stand bright lights, I just cannot. I also cannot bare too much noise such as tv and something else and the worst when I’m
    Trying to focus us background noise. I often wear my noise cancelling headphones off while working to try reduce as much as possible the noise

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