Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do if You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World by Sharon Heller, PhD (HarperCollins)

The Pitch Normally functioning adults may be experiencing sensory defensiveness, a condition not recognized by mainstream mental health professionals yet which the author contends may lead to excessive stress and anxiety.

The Pitcher Sharon Heller is a developmental psychologist who says she is continually working to overcome her own sensory overstimulation.

The Bad According to the author, the symptoms of sensory defensiveness include:

* Feeling annoyed when certain textures touch your skin

* Recoiling from light, ticklish touch or when someone, particularly a stranger, unexpectedly touches you

* Startling to loud, sudden or piercing sounds

* Being unable to shut out constant noise

* Wincing at bright lights.

All of these seem like things it would be quite reasonable to be defensive about. This would seem to suggest that sensory defensiveness is a sort of psychological ailment "for the rest of us." But Heller belabors the point. By the time you get to the "how to treat it" section that takes up the second half of the book, the painstaking explanations of how the condition evolves (Heller says it's rooted in the nervous system, but is significantly influenced by environmental triggers) may well have ratcheted up your sensory defensiveness.

The Good Heller's prescription for dealing with things that promote unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety include exercise, limiting consumption of foods that may contribute to physical or psychological problems, and meditation or other forms of psychic renewal. Sounds good. A little familiar, but good. And it's pretty hard to argue with a suggestion that a good way to cope with overstimulation is to get away from the source of the problem.

-- Gregory Mott