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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Too Muchness: When Life Gets to Feeling Like it's All Too Much

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 31st 2008

 Have you ever reached the point where you just cannot listen to another person's comments anymore? Have you ever reached the point where the sound of the television feels like it's over whelming noise? Have you ever reached the point where you do not want to go out to see or talk to anyone because your day has been filled with too much? Have you ever reached the point in a day where, if you have to deal with one more problem you will either shout or cry?

Frequently, I hear the term "too much" in relation to many different types of things. I have actually changed the term into something that is probably not grammatical but expresses what many people experience: "Toomuchness." What is "Toomuchness," I hear you ask? First, I will tell you what it is not:
1. It is not pathological, 2. It is not a mental illness, 3. It is not unusual or uncommon, 4. It not incurable.

So, what is "Toomuchness?"
It is a state of feeling over whelmed by too much or too many:

1. Choices to have to make,
2. Conflict and disagreement,
3. Anxiety producing situations that feel uncontrollable,
4. Noise in the form of traffic, neighbors, teenagers blasting stereos,
5. Stimuli in the environment in addition to noise,
6. Bad news on television, radio and newspapers,
7. Family and personal history going back to childhood,
8. Information about what is good and bad for health,
9. Warnings about the end of life on the earth,
10.Bills and problems of all kinds and types.

Abusive Childhood, Depression and Toomuchness:

There are many people who, as a result of chaotic, deprived and abusive childhoods, experience their daily lives as "too much." For some, the sensation of "toomuchness" becomes the source of depression and hopelessness, even leading to suicidal thoughts.

PTSD and Too Muchness:

There are people who experienced fairly uneventful childhoods in the sense that their family lives were intact and happy. Then, in their adulthood, they experienced something that was overwhelmingly traumatic. Some of these individuals may have found themselves in the middle of an earthquake, at the wrong end of a gun while they were being robbed and assaulted by a criminal, in the midst of a tornado when their house was blown away, or in the center of a car bomb explosion in Iraq in the midst of combat. For these people, everything that happens subsequent to the traumatizing experience is felt as "toomuchness."

Everyone and Toomuchness:

A person does not have to have been through any of these experiences to suffer from "toomuchness." In an era of instant communication, when we learn news and information from the far corners of the earth, it is easy to experience the sense of "too muchness." There are also endless varieties of the same product from which to choose when shopping. Many people, even if they read about products in advance of shopping, feel over-whelmed by the varieties and types available.

The Way We Are Wired:

It is also important to consder the fact that each individual has a different neurological wiring system. By this I mean that some people are born with a greater ability to tolerate stress than others. Of course, there is a point at which anyone and everyone will start to experience "toomuchness." In fact, this is sometimes referred to as the "Diathesis Stress Model" of disease and emotional problems. Here is how it works:

Diathesis Stress Model- There is a crossing point at which our genetics and the environment combine to cause havoc with our physical and mental health. Each person has a limit to the amount of stress they are capable of tolerating. Once life events of a stressful nature accumlate to the point that the genetic capacity has been reached, the person becomes ill. Because this is determined as much by life events as by genetics, the diathesis point is different for each person.

How Are People Affected by Toomuchness?

One of the major outcomes of what I am referring to as toomuchness is what is commonly referred to as stress. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition, stress is defined as "the state of emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances."

The things that one individual experiences as strain and tension will not be experienced in the same way by someone else. Regardless of this fact, there are certain currents in our modern society that causes large numbers of people to experience this emotional strain because of the accumulation of demanding circumstances over a life time.

Physically and psychologically, there are broad areas of complaints affecting people as a result of this emotional stain. Physically, too many people and at ever younger ages, are being diagnosed with:

1. High Blood Pressure
2. Diabetes
3. Obesity
4. Heart disease
5. Somatic symptoms such as backaches, headaches, stomach distress, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, etc.

Psychologically, people are diagnosed with:

1. Depression
2. Anxiety
3. OCD
4. Worry
5. Sleep loss, etc.

What Can You Do About Your Toomuchness?

There are things in life over which we have no control. For example, we cannot influence the OPEC nations to produce more oil at cheaper prices. However, we do not have to sit in front of the television news taking in the lists of murders, rapes and assaults as the reporters describe the gory details. So, here are some suggestions:

Reducing Toomuchness:

1. Turn off the television and radio news, except, perhaps, to follow the election.
2. Get plenty of exercise. Exercise toughens the body and changes the crossing point (diathesis stress) before we become ill.
3. Refrain from alcohol and drug abuse. They don't solve problems and, in reality, make things worse.
4. Listen to music. A recent study showed that listening to music for thirty minutes, while doing deep breathing exercises, reduces blood pressure.
5. If you like the movies, see comedies, things you can laugh at. Laughter is a great medication.
6. Do not be a hermit. Talk and socialize with family and friends. Social involvement is a great way to stay healthy.
7. Eat healthy foods. This does not mean you have to starve yourself. No one ever died from having a little ice cream. Just don't make that ice cream treat a daily item and do not gorge yourself on it. (I am using ice cream to represent any type of food that, if over used, could be bad for health).
8. Get plenty of sleep. Americans are sleep deprived and that is very unhealthy.
9. Some people get a real sense of peace and comfort out of their religion. For those, it is really important to attend religious services. For those who do not believe in organized religion but who do feel spiritual, there are many avenues to pursue including learning Yoga and learning Buddhist or other types of practices.
10. As one great Buddhist teaches, "If you are washing the dishes, focus on that and nothing else." In other words, live in the moment and appreciate each and every moment. Smell the coffee, the grass, the flowers, hear the children play, live life in its largest and smallest ways.

 

 

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

way way too mch - honeyb - Jun 25th 2014

my dad lost his job, i am disabled and chronically ill requiring constant trips to specialized doctors when I am not in and out of the ER from passing out from another medical issue... other medical issues have become so severe that they have limited what I can eat to nearly nothing and what I truly love to eat I cannot.  my cat died, my dog died, we are living off of whats left of my family's savings. my dad was laid off then was supposed to go into business with his friend who was the owner and was the one investing, he strung my dad and the other works along for 6 weeks without pay, and after 2 months told my dad he was "resigning" after never investing or paying anyone.  my birthday is coming, and i make all holidays and bdays for eveyrone extra special and put in lots of thought and work into each one so they feel so special, but no one has put any thought into mine i found out today because of the stress in the house, which I admit really hurts me.  I simply wanted a puppy for my birthday and was going to pay with what little savings I had, and I have been nearly robbed by scammers 4 times this week.. it should never be this hard to find a malamute puppy for a pet.  I am crying all the time which is NOT like me.  My brother is traveling the world with his family... seeing everything, he has the cutest son, but I never see him and although I am not contagious most of his life he was not allowed around me as if I had the plague.  He is the only granchild, I was not able to have babies.  it reallly hurts.  life feels useless and empty and I hate it.  I need something good to happen, i really do.  I am disheartened and depressed beyond words.  I am trying to understand ssi and ssdi and ssn and all these things and trying to figure out how to find a good lawyer to get disability.  theonly way i can receive insurance is going to school, and i ave to take out loans i can't afford to do it, but there is no choice.  because of my cognitive decline, schooling is truly and issue to even make it through.  I have hit a wall like I have never hit, too much ness just sounds too simple for what is going on.

deprresd and lonly - dean - Dec 24th 2010

didnt do anything for me i just dont want to wake up any more girl friend gone no where to go and its christmas all i wanted was help and cant seem to get any

Too Muchness - Ziggy - Nov 4th 2010

Someone once used the phrase 'too many inputs not enough terminals' and this I feel sums up life for me at the minute.

I am having impossible financial demands put on me by the tax man and an ex employer chasing an overpayment of my wages (not my fault) of £200, tax man £600 from 2008 when my ex employer (same one ) failed to take the rhe right ammount of tax.

Had my career ruined through whistleblowing which I had to do at the time.

Now unemployed caring p/t for my Grandma who had a double mastectomy & undergoing chemotherapy with dementia. Close family member is being abusive towards her tried to get linked in with adult protection etc..... Meanwhile my father in law is in hospital has given his bank account to a friend of the family who has taken over his house......

There is more but who would believe it?

Please. I don't know if to laugh, cry or just dive into a hole.

everything is too much - Zahra - Jun 11th 2010

Sometimes I have good days, but often everything is too hard.  How to decide about a new house? What task to start first? Which emails to answer? It's all too much. I avoid starting anything because it instantly becomes too much. I've done many of the things recommended in your article, but it still seems like every day is too hard.  Even though I'm lucky and have a comfortable life.

Music - Bradley Fisher - Apr 9th 2010

I am a regional toomuchness sufferer, and believe me, there is ALMOST NOTHING you can do about it.  I literally go insane when living in the Northeast and feel on top of the world when living in the South or West coast.  Now I said that there is nothing you can do, and there isn't; at least not to change the things that bother you.  You can’t change how irritating it is when someone walks slowly and you just want to get away from everyone or why some people look like they are going to kick your ass when you look at them or even why people have to yell in the library.  You can’t change that your friends want to go out when you have things to do and you certainly can’t change the inevitability of age.  You cant make that one girl you want love you (not always) and you cant jump into a movie and live another life.  You cant all of a sudden become kickass and you won't, but you can change the way you look at all of it and yourself...with a little work. And it can happen like switching on a light.  First, get up and shower.  Make yourself look INCREDIBLE.  I don't know why, but it is the spark that ignites a mood change.  Then, listen to Owl City.  Their words will have almost NOTHING to do with your situation, but believe me, it will suddenly change your mood.    You are good looking.  If you have a face, you are ahead of every person on the world who doesn’t.  If you have arms, you are even MORE ahead of the game.  Go ahead, list all the shit you have that other people don’t and you will be shocked.  When you think about it, you kind of rock, and inside, somewhere, REALLYYYY deep down, you know it.  Take a shower, put some G##%D D#$MN Owl City on your ipod and go take the world by storm today.  You don't have to change who you are inside, or the world, just the way you view it.

You are perfect.

-B-rad

Winter - - Jan 19th 2009
It seems like the last few Winters have been unbearab;e for me. I dread every morning when I go to work, the lomg hours in the cold, snow and ice. I just can't seem to lift my mood. It's so dark all the time and I'm sure I suffer from SAD. Seasonal Affect Disorder. I do need to exercise but I'm not very motivated. I just want o come hpme and sleep. Common?

Stress - Steven - Jun 6th 2008

"Toomuchness" sounds like 'snake oil' jargon. Read about a scientific explanation in the following book: The End of Stress As We Know It" by Bruce McEwen. Stop with mumbo jumbo.

Editor's Note: Dr. McEwen's book does look like a good resource.  However, your criticism of Dr. Schwartz's made-up term "toomuchness" completely misses the point, I think.  A term like "toomuchness" is the opposite of jargon, functioning as it does as an entry point term that people who aren't familiar with technical discussions of stress can easily relate to.  It isn't intended to be reified.  

Thank you - Nicole - Jun 5th 2008

Hello, I always enjoy reading your page and found this article to be particularly helpful where I often feel overwhelmed by the "toomuchness" in life.  Thank you for sharing these suggestions and affirming that I am not crazy :-)

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