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Too Loud Too Bright Too Fast Too Tight    by Sharon Heller order for
Too Loud Too Bright Too Fast Too Tight
by Sharon Heller
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Sharon Heller is a developmental psychologist, an author, and a professor at two universities in Florida. Along with as many as fifteen percent of otherwise normal adults, Heller is also sensory defensive. Too Loud Too Bright Too Fast Too Tight introduces sensory defensiveness, which is a common but frequently misdiagnosed psychological condition. Sensory defensiveness is defined as a condition that encompasses a constellation of symptoms, including tension, anxiety, avoidance, stress, anger, and even violence, that result from aversive or defensive reactions to what most people consider nonirritating stimuli.

People that are sensory defensive tend to be easily overstimulated and may react with irritation and even alarm to what most people consider ordinary sensations. These are ones that most people can readily tune out, such as sounds, odors, lights, motion, temperature, taste and touch. For example, many sensory defensive people need to remove clothing labels because the sensation of the label against their skin bothers them immensely. Another common irritation is sensitivity to bright light and the need to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days. Others may feel panicky when riding down an escalator or driving through a tunnel. These are all things that most of us experience on a daily basis without afterthought or ill effect. For sensory defensive types however, these experiences can be extremely irritating, or even overwhelming and frightening.

Unfortunately, sensory defensive people are often misdiagnosed as suffering from depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive behavior, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or eating disorders such as anorexia. Heller's book provides insight into the condition and explains the differences between mild, moderate and severe sensory defensiveness, along with case studies of each severity level. Self-tests and to-do lists are included for greater understanding of the condition and ways to decrease overwhelming stimuli. Heller suggests and explains daily activities and strategies that will increase calmness and alertness in sensory defensive people and help them minimize adverse reaction to stimuli experience in daily life.

This book is blessedly jargon-free and Heller provides a short glossary with concise definitions for any terms that may not be readily understood by the average reader. A valuable resource guide is also included after the glossary for readers seeking more information and assistance regarding sensory defensiveness. In addition to her book and the resources provided therein, Heller encourages sensory defensive types to seek out appropriate therapy or counseling to further manage their condition. Too Loud Too Bright Too Fast Too Tight is a wonderful, comprehensive resource for sensory defensive people and for anyone interested in the condition, or has a loved one or friend that is sensory defensive.

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