PTSD and Difficulty in Loud Environments

ptsd noise

I thought I was the only one.

It’s one of the many pronounced differences I’ve noticed since developing PTSD.

In fact, my last nasty, guilt-ridden, ptsd moment, was in direct response of my inability to tolerate noise.

The last time my mom came to visit I had a breakdown moment.  My mom, in-laws, everyone happened to be at the house and the noise level was overwhelming.  My anxiety immediately amped up and I felt as if I couldn’t breath.  There were multiple conversations, the TV was blaring, my kids were running around laughing and yelling. I couldn’t follow anyone’s conversations.  It was like their words were being drug through mud or something.  I had to focus hard to make sure I got each and every word, but I couldn’t string anything together in any coherent sense.  The best way to describe it, I guess, is that I could hear the words if I focused hard enough on them, but I couldn’t extract any meaning.  I couldn’t process any of my own thoughts either; I couldn’t make words. I sat there frustrated, overwhelmed, my nervous system couldn’t handle anymore, it physically hurt, my head hurt.  I wanted to scream. I wanted to tell everyone to shut up.  I wanted to bolt out the door.  I wanted to cry.

At some point, my husband pulled me into the kitchen to tell me something important. I was listening, but it was hard to make sense of anything being said.  I had to focus and try to drown out the background noise.  More than once I asked him to repeat himself. I was struggling. In the middle of the conversation, my three-year-old came bounding up with a seashell in her hand. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Look Mommy, Look.  Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.”  My husband continued to talk right through my daughter’s “mommy-ing” me. I continued to try to listen what was being said, but now it was becoming impossible.  I gave her a couple quick hushes, but it didn’t deter her.  She was yelling “Mommy” and jumping up and down excitedly, and my husband was saying something very important, and there was a cacophony of noises coming from the other room. I snapped. “CARA STOP. NOW….JUST STOP.” I watched the words come flying out of my mouth and regretted it even as it was happening.  She froze for a moment, before she ran off sobbing.

I remember my husband whispering for me to “Just go.  Go and take a break.” I went into my room, took a few deep breathes, and then my mom came in and asked if I was okay. I immediately burst into tears.  I tried to explain to her what it all felt like.  All the noise, how overwhelming it all was, how I couldn’t think or follow conversations, and how I’d feel trapped and about the anxiety attacks.  How it was always like this anymore, and I didn’t know why.  I told her this is partly why I stay in my room all the time.  This is why I hide.  Because when I’m out there, I hurt people I don’t mean to hurt.  And the entire time I was telling her this I kept wishing I could stop crying and just say, “Yeah, Mom, I’m okay.”

I’ve scoured the Internet for academic articles, community forums, blog posts, just about everywhere in search of an explanation for why the noise is so difficult to tolerate, but I found nothing.  I’ve talked to my therapist about it, but she didn’t understand why either. I’ve never found an answer.  I assumed it was a personal issue.

But maybe I’m not alone.  Maybe it’s just not talked about enough. The article linked to the pin goes into a discussion about anxiety rather than the issues of noise for PTSD sufferers, which I wish it did.


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