Where Does That Feeling of ‘Over Presence’ Sit Within the Sensory Spectrum?

by | Jul 9, 2018 | Articles | 52 comments

Have you ever experienced a feeling of overbearing?

Like someone in the room’s presence is overwhelming you… but you’re not quite sure why.

Everyone else around you seems unaffected but you feel an intense discomfort and an urge to get away.

We know that misophonia can have this impact on us (for sounds) and misokinesia (for movement).

But what about when there are no obvious triggers? No sounds, no movements, but you still get that feeling?

What does this mean? And is this even a thing?

I’m really interested to hear your own experience on this…

I find myself overly aware of my surroundings. Specifically other people’s presence. The noises they’re making, their movements, their behaviour, their proximity to me.

When I feel like someone has, what I call ‘over presence’, it sets off my misophonia. All the symptoms spring to life, the heart racing, the babble of thoughts, that intense feeling of frustration and/or fear and anger.

Only this time it isn’t misophonia exactly… the triggers are people, but they’re not sound related.

I’ve been searching high and low for a neurological term for this disorder but can’t find one, which is why I’ve coined the term ‘over presence’ for this article (if there is already a term for it and I’ve missed it, please let me know!)

It feels like an invisible membrane is being pushed and shoved. Like misophonia, this can trigger an overwhelming desire to get away

Most of us are aware if there’s a potentially unsavoury character lurking around, but this is different.

It’s not necessarily the obviously leery man who keeps staring… or the sketchy character eyeing up your personal belongings. While the sensation doesn’t feel a million miles apart, the context is different, less obvious.

It’s a sensitivity and awareness of individuals who’s presence somehow seems to impose itself beyond their own scope and into yours…. individuals whose auras almost seem to be overextending.

It’s as if their presence is not confined to their own bubble, or that of their social group, and spills out into your environment in a way which is physically uncomfortable. Yet to everyday eyes they are simply standing or sitting there. It’s a kind of invisible overspill.

I’m not suggesting for a moment this is a spiritual phenomenon or reflects any kind psychic ability – I think the possible causes are a lot more explainable.

Before we get into that, let me give a couple of examples.

If this is something that you suffer from too, hopefully this will make things clearer.

Example 1: You’re walking down the street and you suddenly sense a stranger’s presence as being overly invasive – so much so that you feel an urge, even a need, to move away. It’s as if you have an invisible forcefield around you and this person is testing it.

They may be a similar distance away from you as other strangers have been that day, but their presence feels like it’s physically pushing against you. Any other people you may be with at the time are oblivious, but you feel a strong need to either let them overtake you or to cross the street.

Example 2: You’re sitting on a train and become utterly fixated (in a misophonia like way) on an individual who’s presence feels overbearing.

It is as if their being, in this moment, is somehow exaggerated – almost screaming “look at me” – and yet they are just sitting there, not staring at you… or doing anything obviously out of the ordinary.

In this instance it can elicit a sense of panic (as in the first example) or, if no threat is perceived, an intense annoyance and frustration. Almost a feeling of “why are you being so attention seeking?” even though rationally you know they are not doing anything abnormal.

In both scenarios it feels as if they are blasting through an invisible privacy geofence. And in both these scenarios you are triggered but others seem unaffected.

In my case I seem to particularly pick up on other people’s nervous energy or anxiety. It feels like it’s amplified many times over. It has, on occasion, caused me to ask complete strangers if they’re ok.

Is this ‘a thing’ – and if so what could cause it?

My own sense (and again, please bear in mind that I’m not a neuroscientist and that these are just musings) is that this sensory sensitivity could occur if certain very subtle, almost invisible, non-conscious cues are being picked up. Cues that wouldn’t necessarily be observed or noticed by others.

If so, it would bear similarities with misophonia. While the majority of non-misophones wouldn’t register someone chewing gum on public transport, they could acknowledge it if you specifically pointed it out to them. By contrast, a misophone would be so hyperaware of the gum chewing as to be in agony.

In the case of ‘over presence’, if this theory stands, we might be picking up almost imperceptible micro behaviours and/or physiological changes in others and that this somehow triggers us.

For example it could be a slightly irregular gait… certain pheromones given off by the individual… even a perception of their stress levels (facial flushing, their heartbeat).

If so, you could say that such a sensitivity, while exhausting and frustrating at times, could prove useful in certain situations.

For example it may alert us to individuals in need… and also help warn us off edgy, unpredictable characters and keep us safe.

Of course the explanation may well be a lot simpler than this. Maybe the ’triggers’ themselves are red herrings. Perhaps the sensory information being received is confused – either in the way it’s received, or the way it’s interpreted by the brain.

If the latter is true, then rather than having a heightened sensitivity to ‘useful’ data in our environment (for example sensing that a person may need our help… or may wish to do us harm) our brains have a heightened reactivity to irrelevant information. It’s then a case of mis-wiring and that our radar is off.

I think it’s also important to consider how far such a phenomenon could cross over into misokinesia territory.

Misokinesia – as we know it- – largely refers to visual triggers (hand movements, face touching etc) but should it also cover other elements, such as proximity and other less obvious visual triggers?

Or perhaps this is something that only I’ve experienced.

I realise this is a shallow dive into a deep and multifaceted topic but I think it’s important to air this in case there does need to be further debate on this topic.

Have you experienced this feeling of ‘over presence’ too? Is this something that’s unique to me, unique to a percentage of us or a common theme for misophones?

I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts.

52 Comments

  1. Julie Weal

    This is fascinating. Thanks for writing about it. It immediately reminded me of something called the “highly sensitive person” which I consider myself to be. I don’t know if it’s based in science or not, but there’s a book and website about it. I tried to post the website but my comment was rejected (it thought I was a spambot). Anyway, if you’re interested, you can google it and easily find it.

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Thanks very much Julie! Sounds interesting, will check it out.

      Reply
      • Kerri Lucas

        Yes! Best I can describe is mentally invading my personal space!

        Reply
  2. Emily

    This does resonate with me – I often experience a hyperawareness of where people are in relation to me and the sense of them being there can be overwhelming and overbearing to the point the brain interprets them as a threat, whether that is the case or not. I often find myself changing pace or crossing the street to avoid proximity with people who particularly seem to trigger this, despite appearing otherwise completely non-threatening!

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Thanks for commenting Emily. Very well put and I think 8 times out of 10 the problem relates to proximity for me too. It will interesting to hear what others think on that too.

      Reply
    • Sarah-Jane Batten

      I absolutely agree with you Emily as I have the same overwhelming experience, particularly when someone is behind me walking down the street – they seem so close and I 9 times out of 10 stand to one side and let them pass. Also people talking loudly close to me – I do what I can to get away. Sarah-Jane

      Reply
  3. Susan Wright

    I do know what you mean Tom and you’re not bonkers! I’m also very sensitive to atmosphere and if it feels uncomfortable I just want to leave

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Haha, I’m pretty sure am I bonkers (although maybe not for this particular sensory trait! Thank you). Sensitive to atmosphere is another really good way of putting it, Susan.

      Reply
  4. Ellie

    This happens to me regularly. I go into fight or flight mode. Friday evening this person was just in the room and I needed them to be out of the room and out of the house! I felt overly agitated & anxious. Like a house was about to fall on top of me.

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Thanks for the comment Ellie. That sounds horrible! I know exactly what you mean and it’s hard to know what to do in those situations.

      Reply
  5. Scott

    Absolutely, I would say its a lot to do with being HSP (Elaine Aron wrote the book and is on ytube). Could also be Highly Intuitive Person even in a psychic way. I saw someone at work last week (young female/Im a male) and every sense screamed dont even go near that person, I sensed evil. Why should it be considered a phobia or problem, perhaps if it was more understood and developed we could use it to our advantage and trust our instinct more.

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      I like it, we need to harness this superpower! Will definitely check out HSP, Julie mentioned that as well so sounds like it must resonate.

      Reply
      • Monique

        I have noticed this a few times, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it, I just thought it was just some sort of anxiety.

        Reply
    • Tony

      Thank you.
      Just bought the book of ebay (uk). this could be the answer i have been looking for

      Reply
      • Monique

        Please let us know if it is. I’m tired of being seen as rude because of distancing myself from random people. Also thank you for writing about it in the first place, it’s nice to hear that others understand.

        Reply
        • Allergic to Sound

          Thanks Monique, you are very welcome. This definitely seems to be something that affects a significant number of us.

          Reply
      • Scott

        Hi Tony, Hope the book helps, it was like a lightbulb went on when I read it and I realised it was not just me and that other people had the same feelings, a bit like when I found out about Miso and that it was a “thing”, such a relief. Best wishes.

        Reply
    • EE

      “HSP” is just not specific enough to be a Thing. Sensitive to WHAT? I find this term vaguely applied to all sorts of things.

      Reply
  6. Ian Spence

    You have hit the nail on the head. If I am out walking and I feel someone’s presence behind me I stop to untie my lace and tie it again or stop to send a text. People on trains can be annoying and sometimes would love a carriage all to myself.

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Spot on Ian, I do something similar when I’m out and about.

      (And on the very rare occasion I get a train carriage to myself it feels like winning the lottery!)

      Reply
  7. Tony

    Definately thats me, and moreso in supermarkets i think.
    Sometimes i want to draw a big circle around myself and say “hey, my space, keep out” 😀

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Haha that would be great. Maybe we should carry chalk with us at all times.

      Reply
  8. Emi

    I sometimes feel this way with my mom/family, especially when I’m trying to do something that requires concentration. Sounds that aren’t even triggers can be stifling, like their voices lol. Micro triggers of misokinesia also makes sense. Maybe it’s also the stress of anticipating being triggered?

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Thanks Emi. I like the micro misokinesia triggers angle as well. It does feel like it’s part of the same sensory family somehow.

      Reply
  9. susie

    Hi there, Love reading all the comments. I have this….what ever it is and used to think I was a bit cra cra. Asking the question why me? Why can’t other people tap into this. I have now learned to use it to my advantage. At first I would only become aware of negative vibes and attributes of people. But I have turned it around and embrace this special gift that I am aware of. I believe it to be instinct. Our animal instinct. Someone mentioned flight and fight mode. We are after all evolved beings and these instincts shouldn’t be over looked or something to be afraid of. We need to nurture them. They are very important survival instincts. Power to you all! You are very lucky to be aware that they exist.
    Susie, Australia

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      I’m totally with you on that Susie. I think we should absolutely embrace the positives this unique sensory awareness can bring. I definitely feel like it keeps us more alert to danger.

      Reply
  10. Allison

    Yes! I definitely have this problem. One of my best friends actually triggers it, and it’s difficult for me to allow her to sit next to me or touch me because of it. I feel kind of bad about it, but she seems to understand that it’s not really something I can control.

    Generally I think of people who trigger this sort of response as being too “loud,” not in sound obviously (usually. Sometimes they are too noisy), but in presence. I don’t know what causes it, but there is definitely variance in how I react to different people, and it doesn’t always stay the same for a particular person. Someone too loud at one point may eventually become more tolerable, and vice versa.

    Reply
  11. Erica

    I experience this too. For me it might be fear of being touched by that person and an anticipation of sensory discomfort that would cause. Like worrying that that person might be the type to reach out and touch my shoulder).

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      That’s really interesting Erica. It’s almost like a constant feeling that they’re going to overstep the mark and the anticipation of that.

      Reply
  12. StandUp

    I’m sitting in a parking lot trying to just drink a cup of coffee and relax before heading home after work. I read this article and, well, talk about perfect timing…

    I’m intensely irritated as there’s a steady stream of cars driving by and people parking near me, despite my careful selection of parking in what I thought would be a quiet row with little or no traffic.

    I’ve already moved my car once as someone parked several spaces away.

    Now, truly, no one is bothering me in anyway. It’s broad daylight and I feel quite safe. Yet just having these people driving by and parking around me sets my teeth on edge – I’m beyond annoyed!

    Soooo…yes, I do know what you mean! And I too will ‘pull over’ when walking if I sense someone walking up behind or even nearby. Thank you for this post! I’m going to explore your site further.

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Thanks for the comment StandUp.

      I know exactly what you mean. It’s like an invisible barrier that surrounds us and when people (or cars!) breach it it can feel like we’re being physically intruded upon.

      Reply
  13. noelle

    yes i think this is a thing. you described it well. to meet feels like masked chronic hostility brewing beneath the surface that i’m energetically picking up on.

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Thanks Noelle, yes that’s spot on. Feels like the energy is being disturbed.

      Reply
  14. Liz

    You’ve described me down to a T. People’s gesticulation, particularly politician handspeak, are unbearable. I was nearly in tears one during a talk when someone sitting in the next row kept sucking their fingers, and today i had to leave work early because a colleagues voice was really upsetting mr. i’m hypervaware of peoples energy and presence. a gift occasionally, but mostly a curse. i think some people are naturally more sensitive. i was also emotionally and phydically abused, and neglected at key stages of my childhood, so i’m sure that has a bearing on how i process some of these things, borne of a need to br hyper aware of threats or changes in peoples moods to try and stay safe. that cop ng mechanism isnt so helpful as an adult. the threats are no longer there, but hyper vigilance is my unwelcome legacy of those dark early days

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Hi Liz, yes, that’s a really interesting element you picked up on there – people’s gesticulation. I have this and this makes me wonder whether it indicates some kind of crossover between this and misokinesia. The feeling is the same when it comes to over presence and even people’s moods. I’m so sorry to hear about what you experienced in childhood.

      Reply
  15. Valerie

    I too experience this. The best way to describe it is that it is like that of an empath. Psychology Today has an “empaths survival guide”.

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      That’s very interesting you say that Valerie! I’ve been looking into that myself

      Reply
  16. Carole

    I have Misophonia and also get reactions to smells, perfumes and people’s “energies” happens even with my own family, people I know and love, animals. Certain words, people’s accents/dialects, body odour, art, handwriting, emotions are triggers too as lm highly empathetic e.g I cannot watch some TV programmes or listen to the news. Smell of certain foods, mould, cigarette smoke just on someone’s clothes can cause certain parts of my body to tense up, hold my breath and feel rage to the point of wanting to hit out. It’s horrendous to live with and after a long period of stress and multiple bereavements it is tons worse. When I was growing up my elder sister who hated me and my sister used to taunt me with certain words that I couldn’t bare to hear, she’d repeat them mercilessly to the point I wanted to threw something at her. I’ve not seen her for years but just the sight of her handwriting can drag my mood into a similar feelings l had during the years of torment. To walk past her room l felt her energy, it was palpable and l used to avoid seeing her whenever possible ..I felt literally physically repulsed. My father was hypersensitive to perfume, sounds, people breathing, eating, clothes l wore, how I pronounced certain words and certain looks ..I’ll knock that look off your face and accusations of dumb insolence were 2 of his favourite sayings. Hypersensitivity and sensory overload seem to go hand in hand…to be fair it’s not all bad as there are nice sensations in response to things l like e.g warm glowing feeling, an expansive feeling, tingling down random parts of my body ..goosepimples can happen down one arm and not the other ..I can feel bolt like feelings in my chest/abdomen to negative experiences …it’s got worse with age and it is very debilitating and at times imprisoning. Following a car crash and an acoustic shock whilst using bud ear phones (beware the use of these as I learned the hard way) I developed hyperacusis and tinnitus which for someone who has highly acute hearing put paid to my singing career and Ended my Preference to mostly live in silence and l now live with constant squealing high pitched tinnitus in both ears that gets worse if l sing and if l wear ear plugs worse still. I have a talented musician friend who l love to listen to but only via telephone as he lives in a damp mouldy house and if he visits I cannot bare the smell of him it literally makes me gag and l cannot relax. Another hate is someone with a smokers cough or sniffing up snot ..I literally feel at the point of wretching and nausea ..the rattle of plastic bags, water being poured out of a kettle …clanging teaspoons in mugs ..hairspray..people picking food out of their teeth..Dog’s and cats repetitively slapping their lips or licking themselves ..the list goes on ?..If anyone has similar and has found any coping mechanisms please please share ..? oh to be “normal” ?

    Reply
  17. Sarah-Jane Batten

    I couldn’t agree more – I have an acute sense of smell, and I hate it when people walk close to me – behind me – children shouting, loud voices of adults, horrible accents – usually high pitched. TV on too loud.

    Reply
  18. Nan

    Yes! I have this all the way. I call it my “spatial relations” sensitivity. I can sense what is in the space between me and others: actual space, energy,their awareness of me, the person’s movements, etc.

    Reply
  19. Janelle

    Fascinating!

    I had a naturopathic doctor tell me I had this feeling because I was an empath. In this instance, that means: “a person who feels and absorbs other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. They filter the world through their intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing their feelings.”

    This means that I read people’s energy before processing or taking into account their outer appearance and mannerisms. People whose energy and intensity was closely aligned with my own are perceived as non-threatening, while people with very different energy and intensity are perceived as threatening.

    This is a survival mechanism, and I believe it’s closely linked to misophonia. Like misophonia, it doesn’t always serve me well. It can even hinder social interactions and relationships.

    Reply
    • Ashleigh Taylor

      I wondered if being an empath was a contributing factor. I’ve never been told I am one, but from online reading and speaking with a spiritual healer I believe I am. This phenomenon really sounded to me like empathic overload from an individual rather than a group.

      Reply
  20. Deb

    I call this proximity sensitivity. It is excruciating. I have wondered if it is related to my hyperacusis/misophonia and to see you write about it here I know it must be. I have special accommodations in my grocery store because I panic when people get behind me in line. so they will check me out separately from everyone else. I have anxiety in the grocery store from it and it is directly proportional to the amount of people in the store. This sounds weird but it is as if I can feel other people’s auras bumping into mine, and it feels like an assault. I don’t actually feel that but my skin crawls when people get near me and I get so startled that I can throw my back out. it feels threatening for strangers to get near me. I even don’t like my kids standing behind me. I have found that having a backpack purse I can wear on my back helps. I get this feeling on my back like I am exposed. like I am a turtle missing its shell. wearing the purse feels like I’m protecting a vulnerable spot.

    Reply
    • Allergic to Sound

      Love this: “… it is as if I can feel other people’s auras bumping into mine”.

      You’ve really described it to a tee here Deb, beautifully put.

      Reply
  21. Ds

    I get this feeling but usually when I’m alone. Funnily happens in a place like the shower. The sound of water just feels overwhelming. Sometimes it happens in complete silence too. It doesn’t happen to me much now but more often when I was a teenager/young adult (am 37 now).

    Reply
  22. Ashleigh Taylor

    I know I am late to this feed but I felt as if I should share my story too. I have a pretty intense misophonic reaction to my dogs mouth sounds, I have mild misokinetic reactions to my dog pacing, my hubby nail biting, or bouncing his leg in the car. I never really thought of this other sense as a ‘thing.’

    While walking out and about, I always avoided people. I’d cross the street if possible and stop if not. I never understood why. I also had several intermittent episodes with my husband where if he got too close, like even lying in bed, it felt like my skin was crawling and I needed to get away asap. It is very hard to describe. It has been several months since I’ve felt that way with him, so I’m hoping whatever caused it has passed, but I still feel weird when sharing a grocery isle with someone, or passing someone on the sidewalk. I hope some day this too will have a proper name and awareness can spread like with misophonia. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  23. EE

    I believe it has to do with the predictability of someone’s movements and bearing/expressions/etc. I’ve noticed that often it applies to people whose comportment and language/gesture use makes them “a trope” in some way. Almost as though instead of generating novel information, they are falling into the grooves of prewritten gestural, tonal, and syntactical (if they’re speaking) patterns that taken in totem are meant to express something rather than being constructed agilely of bits, if that makes sense (the time that I’ve noticed the language version of this behavior in mySELF is when I’m stoned or for whatever reason am not at liberty to construct my speech as finely– by which I mean manipulating the small parts– as I would like). Examples: pruny fussy grandmas who seems to look around and scowl at everything and annoyedly repeatedly smooth their skirts down and purse their lips. Bougsie white ladies who have an over-empathetic, over-kind affected mannerism set (if you live near the SF area, you’ll hopefully know what I’m talking about).

    Reply
  24. SeeTheSeeing

    I have the same experiences. I am often aware of people’s presence from what seems far away yet extremely predictible and way too close for comfort. My hearing is so sensitive that I often get overstimulated and have to hear sounds I choose or running water in the shower. I have had to use ear plugs to lower the decibels of my surroundings. I worked in a retail store and ended up losing my job because I called out too much due to the stress on my psychy and physical body. However, my perceptions of order within the happenings of every day life are almost always accurate. I see patterns in behavior in others and frequency of attachment to identify with whatever fans the fire of their ego. I get bored with these people, to the point of disgust. I sometimes challenge these people by setting strong boundaries that ensure their actions fall squarely on them. I have been accused of things I didn’t do in the past so that may be a defense mechanism for protection or simply my interest in devine order. Maybe both. There are times when I can’t seperate the irritation I am experiencing from the person who is making the movement, sounds and projections. When I don’t get along with someone I have a hard time being around them. I feel like I am mirroring their perceptions of me, yet I am fully aware of these observations and I go in and out of higher self and ego.. Back and fourth. I often feel fed up or encroached upon by certain people I come across. I used to not be offended or bothered by these people. Knowing they are predictible wasn’t an issue to me. Instead I simply focused on the good and the light. It wasn’t until I began unfolding my own shame and self inquiry. I wonder if it is a response to my evolution.. To get away from reminders of past pit falls and traps. I have become so good at strategizing my boundaries and avoiding traps. There is a huge inflation of ego among the young, growing adults today. I was one of the last generations to go through high school with out a cell phone, ipod or tablet. Thanks for the article! Its nice to not feel alone in this. I need to research this subject more as I am an artist who must carry out her purpose.

    Reply
  25. Jennifer

    YES!! Oh my gosh – I gave this feeling do often while riding the bus to work. Just this morning, I felt a physical sensation like someone’s leg against mine but when I looked, they weren’t quite that close. I never act on it but the feeling makes me want to push people or scold them. I’ve never heard a word for it but it needs one. I may have to dig through prefix-suffix.com haha!

    Reply
    • Anna

      I totally have this thing.
      Sometimes I get so annoyed I just want to yell “shut up, shut up, shut up!” to somebody even though this person is just sitting there not talking or making any sounds.
      I used to be even more sensitive to it as a teenager. I also had this thing when somebody bumped into me on accident it was so infuriating to me. Everytime that happened I would overreact with a blind rage. I also hate grocery shopping. Too many people and this bright artificial light.

      Reply

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