Shopping centres and supermarkets - an irritable rave

I had to be in a very big shopping complex in Bondi this morning and started feeling unpleasantly disoriented. The visual busyness, the bright lights and colours, the noise, the flashing ads, but above all, the vast expanses of dazzling floor that were not flat. It wasn’t a bumpy floor but a floor that gradually changed gradient at certain junctions (not my imagination!). In the lift an older man with his arm in a sling told me that it was the second time he had broken his arm in this shopping centre falling onto the floor.
Shopping centres need to change their ways. These high stimulation methods might have worked to make consumers spend more in the 1980’s but we are way more savvy now and these devices are just an irritation and a health hazard.

In Canberra in a Woolworths supermarket I spotted a sign that said “Quiet Hour”. I had to move a box of nappies to see that it runs from 10.30 – 11.30. It was 10.29 am. I waited 5 minutes but nothing changed. If I’d removed another box of nappies I would have seen that it’s Tuesdays only. I asked a passing store assistant what Quiet Hour meant. “They turn the lights down for an hour” she answered brightly. “Is that it?” I asked, listing a few other things that they might do. “No, just this. But it does seem to make people quieten down. It’s a start anyway!”. No, I thought, it’s mere tokenism!! My daughter told me later it’s probably for autistic customers. Woolworths’ can tick a box – “supporting people with special needs”.

Oh for a quiet place where I can shop in peace, with no overlay of artificial excitement, where I can take my time, where no shop assistants hassle me …. Wait! …. there IS such a place …. online shopping :smiley: Watch out Westfield – change or die!


OMG! You would think that would be a big wake-up call for the shopping center. Here in the US there would lawyers lined up waiting to file lawsuits. :slight_smile:

Oh, we’ve got an even better one here in the UK. We’ve actually got a big hospital modernised and extended about 2012 where to align the old and new parts they built a very wide meandering corridor where the floor slopes invisibly to compensate. Just to add to the confusion the walls both sides are lined with huge colourful murals for distraction. I’d never been so disorientated by anything as that floor. Designed totally without consideration for people with balance issues. A hospital. Only advantage must be if you break a limb you don’t have far to go to get it fixed. Helen

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Ugh! Awful. I suppose they do this to avoid steps but at least your brain knows what’s happening with steps.

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Yes, that thought did cross my mind too. But I can see how it might be hard to complain about falling on a vast expanse of floor that has no steps or obstacles. We need to speak out about the negative effect of floors that aren’t flat on people who are ‘vestibularly challenged’.

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Just be well prepared to receive That Look yet again. You know the one. The ‘I’m placating this maniac as best I can’ look. All these type of things just go to show how unusual it really must be - how few people worldwide - suffer all this hypersensitivity. It just isn’t thought of by designers because 99.99 recurring of the population have just never heard of it in any form at all. It really cannot be that common. I know I’m only one individual but I’ve never yet met (and, birthday looming, I’ve been around a good while) anybody apart from the people on here and two neurologists who suffer from it or knew it existed. Helen

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I can no longer tolerate the supermarket. I order all my groceries online and then go to pick them up, the lighting is just awful but I only have to stand there feeling dizzy for a couple of minutes then they give me my trolley and I’m outta there!

Yes, sadly I have to agree. I was telling my sister about this website today and the amazingly compassionate, well-informed (strong!) people on it. She clearly associates the words vertigo, migraine, tinnitis, no caffeine and no alcohol with my state of health but she had no idea at all about my shopping centre/supermarket sensitivity or that there is a small army of people out there in the world that also has these problems. Too much invisible suffering. Spread the word! Get people to understand. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil after all :slight_smile:

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Brill thing, on line shopping. I’ve started that this year but I go the whole hog and a burly fella delivers it right to my kitchen table. I couldn’t tolerate supermarkets. Never entered one at all for maybe two full years. I can and do now again. Initially wearing dark glasses and a brimmed hat but no dark glasses these days. Restaurants are the other main trigger for me. Not surprising. They are like an extended stay in a supermarket (same type artificial lighting and ‘space’) except you are sitting down. I’m still getting around to restaurants. These days I’d be OK in daylight without artificial lighting. I’ve always felt it was the artificial lighting that did it for me. Particularly once the meds controlled the visual vertigo optical flow (stacked shelves both sides of your vision) stuff. I’m all for Trigger Avoidance. Depends how symptomatic you can get but I never saw 10-15 minutes supermarket shopping a worthwhile experience for the resultant 8 days in bed unable to stand which was what it would do to me every time come to escalation pre-meds. Helen


They recently ‘renovated’ my local Woolworths store which I discovered simply meant squeezing more products into more aisles so that the corridor between them is very narrow. Now if you encounter someone in an aisle you both have to flatten against the shelves to get past the other person. Ridiculous. No such thing as lingering to browse either because a queue of people starts to form all wanting to get past you. Yes, online grocery shopping is looking like an exceedingly better alternative.

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Haha … your posts often make me laugh Helen. An unexpected description of a restaurant but so true when you think about it.

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I’m really glad about that. I often think it’s just my down to earth, two feet firmly planted on the floor (Thx Dad!) outlook on life and my sense of humour that’s kept me going. Oh, and I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, all these years of MAV. I rather enjoy trying to work it all out. Not the technical stuff, just the practicalities. These seemingly ‘out of the blue’ surprise reactions most often aren’t anything like that at all. Not when you really look in to it closer. Not if you try to think like the sensory bit of a brain. My balance has been so affected by all this I get the feeling it’s now slowly rebuilding from scratch and I’m watching it from the side. Bit like watching a new house go up next door! I wish I had the patience to try to record it all for posterity so to speak. Helen

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OK folks. As links can’t be included in messages, I’ll start a new thread. Am not having a good day today so leave it with me.

TexOkie. Thanks for the “cheat”. Might explore that at some point. Re “supermarket syndrome”, I found that I was regularly feeling ill after visiting supermarkets and garden centres especially those with high ceilings. When I told my otolaryngologist about it, to my surprise, he said it wasn’t unusual in people with vestibular disorders. He explained that in such cases the brain is struggling to make sense of possibly differing balance signals received from the vestibular organs in the ears and other parts of the body (eyes, joints, muscles). When you walk down a supermarket aisle you take in lots of visual information in the form of rows of images, labels, etc. and the brain simply gets overloaded and can’t cope. That’s why you get dizzy. I find wearing sunglasses helps, keeping my head down as far as possible and getting out quickly! Try Googling the term, you should find plenty of hits. There is also a condition called “tall building syndrome”. I get it in warehouses and other places where there is a high roof. I think the explanation is the same ie. the brain tries to process lots of visual information and can’t cope. Hope this helps.

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Also wanted to ask knowledgeable people on here, one area I definitely notice breakthrough symptoms is supermarkets and other shops. Which have been an issue for me from day 1. Going into shops really aggravates the symptoms of imbalance, even though walking around outside and at home is easier on my current regimen.

I know this is a very common MAV/PPPD symptom, but do you get it with other vestibular disorders like secondary hydrops, Menieres or vestibular hypofunction?