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PTSD Symptoms: The Exaggerated Startle Response

PTSD symptoms
by Jay Reid

A telltale sign of trauma & how to cope

Our bodies don’t lie when it comes to trauma.  The nervous system gets severely strained when trying to cope with a stress that’s beyond our capacities.  In fact, that’s what our nervous systems are there for: to balance the demands between self-regulation and survival.

Sometimes we have to get a little dysregulated to survive – like when we sprint away from a stray dog that has us in his sights.  Sure, we get winded and exhausted (a state of dysregulation) but we are able to escape the dog’s clutches.  Once the episode is over with, our nervous system kicks in to get our breathing back to normal.

The nervous system stuck in survival mode

If you were not so lucky to escape an attack on you – of any sort – then you were traumatized.   In the moment of that trauma you may not have known whether you were going to survive or how you were going to keep on living given how horrific your current circumstances felt.  Your  nervous system can also get stuck trying to ensure your survival rather than restoring your sense of calm and peace.  Trauma makes it hard to believe that your survival is guaranteed so that the nervous system can set about calming you down.

Increased startle response: A sign that your nervous system is in survival mode

Sometimes this state of readiness can show up as the startle response. This is a biologically programmed sequence of movements to keep us safe in the face of sudden danger. It can involve involuntarily covering vulnerable parts of the body (like the back of the neck or throat).  After a traumatic event or childhood maltreatment, you may be more easily startled and/or the experience of being startled can be more distressing.

If you notice yourself getting startled fairly easily but you haven’t had a recent traumatic event, then it is possible that you endured a relationally traumatic childhood.  I encourage you to answer my quiz here to see if this may be the case.

Startle easily?  Try these approaches to better manage this symptom of trauma

Here are a few tips for coping with an overactive startle response.

  • Practice getting your body into states of relaxation with Diaphragmatic Breathing for 5 minutes 4 times/day.
  • Exercise compassion with yourself when you do get startled. Part of recovering from trauma is becoming empathic with yourself for what you can and cannot control.  The startle response falls into the latter bucket.
  • Remember that if you feel self-conscious about your startle response, it is most likely that others take much less notice.

Jay Reid is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).  He has several years of experience helping people learn to cope with symptoms of trauma.  If you are interested in psychotherapy, please contact him at contact him to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.  

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  1. I have survived several horrible traumas in my life,including childhood sexual abuse by my father,two abusive marriages,and various scary and stressful living situations.
    Two weeks ago I was startled by a barking dog and actually threw my car door into my face as I was getting into my car.This resulted in 6 stitches,and a shot I really didn’t want. I felt embarrassed when I saw my regular Dr., as I went to Urgent Care for the stitches.She just said they turned out pretty good,and that made me feel better.A startle response can injure you,obviously…..

      1. I’m so sorry you went through that. I hope you’re okay now.

        I remember for years knowing I startled easily but I never knew why, I was young and didn’t have the guidance to understand myself. I had gone through most of my life until my adolescence not knowing that I was hurt. It wasn’t until a random asshole I went on a date with jokingly said, “you have issues” it wasn’t until then that I realized I wasn’t “okay”. Anyway, I remember I used to startle at work and this girl used to have a stupid saying whenever I jumped, it was in Spanish but she’d say “you must have a guilty conscience” and I didn’t understand, I just felt weird and crazy. She was young and just said what she heard somewhere else. A stupid saying. In a way she wasn’t wrong but I thought it was weird that she teased that shit. I am envious of people that know how to hide their fucking issues.

    1. When I am concentrated , I use my total brain. Someone can just walk in the room and I jump. When I am not concentrating – this does not occur?

      1. Hello Liz, As for me, I haven’t decided if it’s better to be deep into concentration, or to be aware.. Like you, when I am concentrating on something I startle much more easily . But if I’m being super aware, it seems I’m more on high alert, if you know what I mean,
        Kathy

    2. Suzan, some of us get trauma after trauma piled upon us, the startle response stops being embarrassing after a while and can cause some of us to harm ourselves.

      I survived two combat tours and an abusive father…any one of the three could be the cause for my PTSD, but in the end it really doesn’t matter. Why am I here…You may laugh, and really. It’s OK. I did.

      I didn’t sleep well last night so I got up early and decided to watch a movie at my computer. Somewhere in the process I fell asleep. Something triggered the dog on my lap to bark and I jumped, hitting my hand on a sharp metal corner under my desk. I ripped the bewhompers out of my wrist. Once I got the bleeding slowed, it became apparent I would need stitches. Yep, it took 16 to close the gash.

      And just like you, because my yappy little dog barked, I had to make a trip to the ER . To quote the late Ron White…”Now that just ain’t right.”

      I’m 70 years old Susan. The last of those traumatic experiences was in 1991 during desert storm. You would think that event, or those cumulative events would have simmered down by now, but apparently not. It’s only gotten worse as I get older. That sux.

      Those in my household know not to approach me without making themselves known, as the initial startle response can result in a violent reaction.

      Bless your heart Susan. If it matters at all, you have company in your anxiety. We should all get together sometime.

      Just no sudden loud noises.

      1. Ken, your right about it getting worse as you get older. I am in the mid to late 60’s and can’t work due to back issue. Since I only sit at home, all of my traumas finally caught up with me. I had a good Dr. who erased the large amount of guilt I had, but my reactions to sudden noise and bright lights really hurts. I feel embarrassed about yelling, ducking, and raising my fists, but most people around me ignore the response. It’s like society today knows that it’s happening more and more and that it was a trauma that caused it.

  2. I have had an exaggerated startle response for quite a few years now. It actually feels like a lifetime, because it has been. As far as most people not noticing it, or noticing it, but giving it a pass, that is true. However, it isn’t the people that ignore it that are the problem. It is the rare individual that see’s your problem and takes it upon themselves to begin to torment you! Yes, there are those rare sadistic individuals out there. They exist! Take my word for it! I’m going through this very thing right now. That is why I am desperate to find relief, of almost any kind. Short of taking Benzodiazepines of course. If anyone on here has any suggestions for treatment, I am all ears. I can’t take this anymore and I need help PDQ!

    1. Get away from your tormentor, don’t feel guilty if it’s a family member. You only have one life on Earth do what’s best for YOU. See a counsellor. Good luck and God bless you xx

    2. I was glad to across this site. William you sound like yours us bad like mine. I have had to take a benzodiazepine for the last 13 years for this disaster condition. I had hoped over time it would have settled down, but I guess when one has had so much trauma in the brain, too much damage is done, at least it looks that way for me . Hoping you find alternatives to a benzodiazepine. They are a disaster to be on.

    3. Hi , Its been a while since your asking if anyone had any suggestions. I empathize . I have had allot pf traumas myself and i know what it us to work through healing them .

      It your open to any suggestion . Then i suggest , Somatic
      Nervous system healing . Purpose is to help the nervous system calm down and heal from past traumas . Having your nervous system being disregulated is hard .

      If you see this i hope it helps .

      Bless you

    4. William, have you tried EMDR therapy, Eye Movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy? It is quickly becoming the most effective way to treat PTSD. I used this therapy after my last deployment and it did wonders for that and childhood traumas I experienced! I highly recommend!!!

  3. OMG my nervous system has been in “survival mode” for more than 50 years. A Councillor just gave me your contact info and I am certainly going to start the Tips given above to better manage. Thank you,

  4. I experienced severe traumatic events as a 15 year old, 17 year old and 39 year old. I have lived with an exaggerated startle response my entire life and am now 52. I recently stopped my anti depressant with a doctor’s advice. I honestly believe Inhave PTSD and will do something about it without medication. Much love to all of you who suffer with this. You are not alone.

  5. I was physically and emotionally abused by three teachers, K, 1st, and 2nd grade. I am now in my 70s.

    It has always been “funny” to people around me when I startle so violently. Even I laugh.

    I can be startled by my husband and children while washing dishes or sweeping the floor. People entering my office at work know to call out ahead to let me know they are coming so I don’t startle myself right out of my chair.

    I have startled so violently that I can scare the person who startled me. I have even pulled a neck and shoulder muscle several times when startled.

    My early school experiences took years to overcome. I’m still working on it.

    Startling easily is the one thing i’ve never been able to stop. At least I live in a safe and loving environment so I can laugh about this.

  6. Hi, I to was raised in a very abusive family where I probably had 12 near death experiences before I was 12. I was molested from the age of 11!/2 until 15!/2. I can’t remember when I started with this response but I know I would love to get rid of it! I can be reading or looking at something and someone puts a hand on my shoulder and I’m gone and the other person is as frightened I think as me.

  7. As a survivor of psychic trauma, I have an embarrassingly over-the-top startle response. A near-collision with another person as I’m coming out of the shower or sauna makes me gasp and flail like Kramer. Feel very alien at those times.

    1. Thank you for this response Susan. As challenging as trauma is, it is clear that it has not impeded your sense of humor. Often that humor is of great help in recovering from – and living with – trauma. The image you painted of ‘Kramer’ was downright hilarious.

  8. I experienced trauma as a senior in high school when my parents divorced, my mother used me as her tool for parental alienatio. Then again in my 30s, when my only sibling died unexpectedly. My startle tesponse was heightened a bit at first, but after my brother’s death – now it is off the charts. It has been 11 years. I literally scream and JUMP if someone sneezes, if my husband walks in the room and I didn’t hear him coming, if something falls resulting in a loud noise….I scream out. Generally if I am at my desk when it happens I will also pound my fists on my desk because it literally makes me angry that it even happens. It usually takes me a few minutes to get myself together. I work from home, but when I used to go into the office, everyone used to laugh hysterically and one of my friends told me to “just stop… that is ridiculous.” She thought I was faking. People do not understand feeling like you are always on the edge.
    Best to all of you!!

  9. I want to know how to get my husband to understand that purposely scaring me actually causes an electric like shock through my body! And its not funny!!!

    1. I am struggling with the same thing! My boyfriend thinks that is being playful and sulk when I shouted back at him. I particularly dislike the length of time it takes to calm that palpitation and shaking. After I calm down I beg him not to do that again and he told me to loosen up! It is the most frustrating thing ever! 🙁
      He loves me and cares for me but too insensitive to understand my condition. I think I will send him a link to this page to understand more about it, Thanks everyone sharing here!

  10. I have an extreme startle response when trying to perform unrelated to the event at hand. Should the dog starts to bark suddenly and I will startle and swear damnation at the dog’s ancestry. My fury of being startled makes the spousal-unit gets angry at me and tells me to calm down. (The dog stands there and barks at me while the wife ‘barks’ it’s … cute.)

    After 30 years as a field paramedic, seen many(but not all) horrible things that men, women, and mankind can do to themselves or others. For now, I sleep as little as I can, there are sounds of sirens and screams are in the sleep areas of my brain. I wake up in terror many times. I can’t ever remember why.

    I will try to stop being so twitchy someday. Right now, I just write and shoot archery.

  11. I divorced my ex husband after 8 years of emotional abuse climaxed with a night of physical abuse. I thought I would die that night & had to fight for my life. Luckily I made it to a phone & the police arrested him. I understood why I was jumpy after that but it’s been 20 years & if someone walks into a room when I’m not expecting them & says something innocuous like “Hey.” I jump up , throw my hands in the air & have to catch my breath. My new husband & my 3 children think it’s funny. It’s very disturbing for me however. I’m over it. Why isn’t my body?

    1. Julie, your story brought tears to my eyes. I scream several times a week when my husband approaches from behind and forgets to hum or sing from a distance to warn me. He’s very sympathetic, but hates to be startled by my screams. I wish I knew a way to stop doing it. BUT FOR YOUR FAMILY TO THINK IT’S FUNNY IS NOT OKAY! If I were you I would schedule a few sessions (or even just one if you can’t afford that) with a family therapist so your counselor can help your family understand where this comes from and how painful it is to you. They should be doing everything they can to avoid startling you.

  12. I have an exaggerated startle response as a result of sexual abuse in my early childhood. I had a co-worker who thought it was funny to occasionally up sneak up behind me at my desk and snap his fingers in both my ears. My reaction was always embarrassing, and I didn’t want to explain why it was so. I was a nervous wreck working with this individual because my supervisor wouldn’t do anything about it. Fortunately I don’t work there anymore.

  13. Well, I have severe PTSD and yes I startle easily. I was mentally, physically, sexually abused as a child. Also I am a combat veteran who was in Iraq. I get angry when people startle me on purpose, but around people I know and love who don’t intend on startling me, I just “sigh” it off. No one here deserves to be intentionally startled and it makes me insanely angry when I hear people practicing this behavior.

  14. I have been doing this more and more. My coworkers are starting to notice it and I can’t seem to stop it. I latterly jump out of my seat if I don’t see someone coming and then they apologize which is worse because I know my reaction is ridiculous. It has become a huge problem in my life and has led me to hide and isolate myself.

  15. We all need to to be mindful that our exaggerated startle responses aren’t typically understood by others, and that no amount of blame for their causing it, intentionally or unintentionally, is helpful to us. I found this site today after an extreme startle response about 10 minutes ago. I’m at home so I knew I was safe yet it set off shaking and crying as if I was 6 again. Quickly, I started deep breathing, reassured my husband that he was not at fault ( he simply entered the kitchen when my back was turned), and allowed his embrace to “love down” the effects. I also reassure myself that I’m worthy and in a good place now. I shared this experience partly to help me settle and partly to someone else needing reassurance. I have a great therapist and I have learned/ still learning how to deal with a lifetime of PTSP. It may sound crazy to some but 36 years of teaching helped balance me. I am an artist, get fresh air whenever possible, volunteer helping children and pursue a healthy life style.

  16. Hey i too suffer through this i am 20 btw and have hid amd isolated myself but i want to be able to hear and talk to other about their days their lives, experiences etc.. Please contact me if you would like to set up sort of like a pen-pal messaging, i have socials too if you prefer social media messaging

  17. I’m 50 with mogerate PTSD diagnosed in the last few years. I have started to connect the dots that some armed robberies and other traumatic events in my teens and 20’s may have already induced mild PTSD- things I attributed to anger management issues didn’t fit that mold. A few years ago extended stress at work from mismanagement and a whistleblowing situation caused what I am beginning to realize was increased PTSD and not initial. I’ve been in treatment and generally doing well for several years but just had my first (or so I thought) exaggerated startle response. Weeks of construction noise on the other side of my office wall had been variously annoying, humorous, or even entertaining (I was formerly in construction). All of a sudden a worker smacked the wall with a hammer a few feet from my head and then kept hammering. I stormed out of my office and pounded on the door until they opened. The workers didn’t like being yelled at! I have been researching startle response since. I thank you all for your examples. Of note, very recent studies have shown that the brainwaves of someone with PTSD react to the change in pattern of even slight unobtrusive tones-we’ve been rewired to perceive change.

  18. Exaggerated startle responses for me leave me feeling frightened. Im a 54 yr old Veteran, I was raised in a low income environment, very little food, ragged clothing, a psychologically and physically abusive violent alcoholic Father and my Mother checked out emotionally. Youngest of 3, I have 2 older Sisters. Middle Sis died in a car accident at 16, I was 10. 3 years later my Uncle and cousin drown. the following 2 summers, 1 friend succumbed to Leukemia and a 2nd in a car accident the following summer. Whenever my dog would bark, I would jump and yell and my wife would get angry at me for yelling and tell me I wasn’t normal and no need to act like that. Needless to say, I go into protect mode because I fear angry people and need to protect myself. I need time to calm down from it and allow myself to get back online, the last thing I need are people around me trying to rationalize with me about a response I already know isn’t rational to a non traumatized person

  19. i have extreme generalized anxiety , and i don’t think that i have had any severe trauma at least from what i can remember , but i have exaggerated startle responses to almost every thing , it is kind of severe cause every body around me get scared due to my startle response , i visibly jump and shout every time someone wakes me up or enters the room suddenly , or call out my name etc , i also experience hypnic jerk a lot , i do have nightmare frequently but i am a lucid dreamer so it doesn’t affect me , i have been under SSRI for more than year now , is it normal to get startled like this ,
    thank you and sorry in advance

    1. I also used to have chronic nightmares for 20 years but lucid dreamt so they didn’t bother me. I actually liked them a bit because it was like a challenge (usually I was being chased in a disorienting environment so a lot of physical exertion and quick thinking) and when it got too stressful I could wake myself up before I was ‘got’. I’ve never met anyone else with lucid nightmares. I moved in with a wonderful man when I was 26 who’s been helping me realize and unlearn a lot about my PTSD-like traits and a strange thing that happened was once I started learning more about my triggers and startle habits my anxiety and nightmares significantly reduced BUT I also lost the ability to lucid dream, so when they do rarely appear now they’re far more traumatic. It seems like my body finally acknowledged that it was safe with him and I started letting my walls down. I started regularly sleeping through the night for the first time in my life that I can remember.

  20. I was abused physically, mentally, emotionally, verbally. Everything but sexual. I was bullied at school badly because I’m autistic. I have the worst startle response. I’m currently living in a high stress area, the Jersey Shore and it’s summer. I have reversed seasonal affective disorder. We live by a condo complex where the maintaince guys purposely slam the dumpsters due to my response. I’m so f—— sick of the reactive abuse! I currently have my med card for complex ptsd, and I’m also on Zoloft, Abilify and trazodone. We’re leaving this state soon thankfully because quite frankly I’m sick of living in a hole country.

  21. I am so sorry, so many people go through trauma and deal with consequences throughout their life. My heart goes out to all those who are courageous enough to bring it forward. I came upon this website because I was hoping to find some kindred spirits who had exaggerated startle responses and try to understand how others deal with it. I’m 74 years old and I don’t even think I realized my startle response was abnormal until once a Dr. pointed it out to me. And my husband teased me about it at times. I have a Masters in Psychology and now am retired from rehabilitation counseling, case management, and my last 9 years as a psychiatric therapist in a hospital. I have no doubt that my startle response( PTSD?) results from my mothers unpredictable rages that were inexplicable to me especially when I was very young. Luckily my dad provided a semblance of sanity to our home and in many ways I had a good childhood. My mother suffered from anxiety and depression and I believe had Borderline Personality Disorder. If you’re familiar with the term, double bind, i.e.,, come close and I’ll stab you, not literally of course. I also have clinical depression and have been on Zoloft for decades at this point. My dad had a great sense of humor to include some silliness and as someone said earlier, a sense of humor helps. I would say its invaluable. If you look at the background of many successful comedians, you will recognize how they use a checkered past to fuel their routines. My advice is to establish boundaries with people who don’t respect your wishes. Please determine to focus on your strengths because you are strong and let no-one, especially yourself victimize you.

  22. I’m here today, because I was desperately looking for help with exaggerated startle response. I don’t use social media and this is the first time I have read individuals’ experiences. I didn’t realise so many people had this problem……..you are the only ones who can understand……..we understand each other. I’m in Australia.
    I had just had an episode when my husband picked up a juice bottle and the plastic made a noise.
    I feel like a lightning bolt goes through me, especially in my head and I get myoclonic body jerks for several minutes. If it is a bad episode, I dissociate and crawl on the ground like a baby trying to find a place to hide in a corner or under a table.
    It effects my whole family. My poor husband always feel guilty for making the tiniest sound.
    I am completely isolated at home now and often have to stay in my bedroom to avoid an episode. Each time it is so exhausting. I have barely any energy. I lost strength in my muscles 13 years ago, had to leave work, I can’t do housework or cooking. I try to walk in my back yard when I have the energy. I have been diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder………..I think my nervous system is so exhausted, it has exhausted all my body. I was sobbing when I started writing. Now, I feel a little better because I know I am talking to people who completely understand.

  23. I have been getting startled so easily ever since my son died. I have complicated grief and PTSD. I only had a week with him from the time hospice got here till he passed. He was disabled and I took care of him. He was 32. He was my whole life.
    Since he died, my husband will walk in the room, and I won’t hear him. I’m in such deep thought. He’ll say something and I’ll scream bloody murder, I about jump out of my skin. It’s aweful.

  24. I have very complex PTSD that I will need lots of therapy for years to come and have begun that. It’s very hard work. I’ve lived in 4 different assisted living facilities in 3 different states. In my last one in Texas, there was a cruel woman in a motorized wheelchair, a very large one since she was very large. When we lined up one behind the other for medication time, she somehow would manage to be behind me where I sat in my rollator walker. I sat because it would take 30 minutes or more to reach the window. Sometimes, knowing my startle response was over the top, she would ram her motorized chair hard into the back of my rollator where I was seated and watch me be rocketed from my seat onto the hard vinyl floor on hands and knees, sometimes on my face. Lots of people laughed, not just her. This situation added to my trauma.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your situation being rammed from behind by a bully. I’ve got complex PTSD w startle reaction too and being exposed to more traumatisation due to housing situation is like living hell. Hope its in the past now and you have peace.

  25. When I was a kid, I was kind of a “closet” independent one (aka: willful, enabled by ‘sneaky’). I also hyper focused, so it was really easy to startle me. I noticed that my startle response was off the charts whenever I got surprised while I was doing something that I thought I ought not to be doing.
    I never was a pot smoker, and during my dance clubbing years, I didn’t even give the startle thing another thought. I married a Microsoft developer in my late 20’s and had a girl and a boy 13 months apart. One night, after the kids were already in bead, I was playing one of those dropping marbles games on the computer, when My husband stood up and announced he was turning in too… “Right behind you” I said” as soon as I finish this level”. I played for a while longer, and as I was about to shut down, when I noticed a banner advertising a “single adult” chat room. I had never been in ANY chatroom before. So, on impulse I thought, why not click it and see what all the fuss was about? I’d been dabbling in banal small talk for maybe 5-10 minutes, when this (am assuming) fella, slyly invited me to go to a PRIVATE chat room with him… Before I could even think of a polite decline, my husband, who had come down to see what was taking me so long, was standing in the doorway 20 ft behind me, and he just said, “are you coming to bed soon, or what?” I gasped, and must’ve jumped a foot in the air, and shouted, “NOTHING!!” He just looked at me like I was crazy.
    I thought I’d grown out of the startle thing. Because generally, grownups don’t need to sneak when they want a cookie or a popsicle. Except, it just seemed to keep getting more pronounced over time. It got so that I couldn’t even enjoy watching my boy play Minecraft because every time he was exploring a cave or something, if one of the game’s ‘Monsters’ growled from the other side of a wall, my heart leap into my throat, and my nose would buzz and tingle for several minutes, and it was alarming how long it actually took for my pulse settled back down.
    Conversely, I’m about the coolest cucumber in a Halloween haunted house. I’m on high alert then…

    1. I just learned about the startle response and left a comment on this site. I then read your comment and noticed a couple of similarities. I am also a hyper focuser and can avoid startles when I am on alert. Weird condition, huh?

  26. I found this article while researching PTSD and ways that trauma affects the brain and body, since many people I know are diagnosed. One of these people pointed out that I have an exaggerated startle response. She along with others around me have assumed me to have PTSD or some other mental health issue stemming from trauma. I know I don’t have anything like that, since I haven’t experienced anything terribly traumatic, especially when comparing my experiences to others’. I think it’s more likely that I have an anxiety disorder, since I’m always on high alert and usually have a startle response even when I am already expecting the thing to happen. There’s a guy i know, we’re acquaintances, and he likes to activate my startle response on purpose. I’m not sure why he does, but there will be times where he repeatedly swings a ruler near me and even though I expect it every time, I still flinch each time and often grab the ruler from him. My current partner along with our friend group at the time would also try to make me flinch, since I suppressed my response around them to try and seem “normal”. They have since stopped, but looking back on it I don’t know why I would let them do such a thing to me.

  27. I’m in my sixties. Until today, while searching the internet, I didn’t know “startled response” was a thing. Well, actually, I thought it was just my thing. For as long as I can remember when I got startled, my fists, elbows or feet flail toward the source of the startle. I can’t tell you how many people I have slugged and or about the injuries I suffered to my shins, head, or knuckles by awkwardly hitting people or things. I worked with a guy who loved to sneak up on me when I was in my locker and scare me from a distance, just to see me nearly knock my locker down and get myself hurt. I asked him on many occasions to stop. What is worse than the external injuries to me and others was that my heart would be pounding for several minutes after the startle, which can’t be healthy. I am a retired police officer who often times searched empty dark buildings with a pistol in my hand. My police partners never wanted to be in front of me, worrying about a stray startled shooting, but I assured them that when I am on high alert, nothing startles me, so, need to worry….(: It is when I am relaxed that the startle startles me…

  28. I have always been easily startled. Like others I dated a man that thought it was funny to startle me . I remember once for instance he sat several of the snap mouse traps on my counter and I couldn’t bring myself to snap them. I worked around them for the longest. Not till years later did I realize how wrong everything he did was and along with physical abuse he was mentally abusing me and enjoyed doing it. He also used to scare me while I was showering. That usually brought me to tears

    1. What a terribly insensitive thing for him to do to you. I am happy you see that now and I wish you peace and love moving forward in your life! Take care!

  29. I know of no great trauma in my life and feel I am a very happy person but my startle reflex is bad. I can know that my husband is in the house but he walks in the room and I jump, scream, heart pounds fight to catch breath. My go weeks w nothing then have it happen multiple times in short period. Feels like calmness takes 10, 15 minutes. Loud sounds always make me jump. Movies make me jump.

  30. Does anyone else startle when they feel uncomfortable about something someone has said?

    When someone says something that I find awkward, my body physically reacts to it by freezing/ startling/ flinching. For example if I’m around an overweight person and someone says the word ‘big’, my body will flinch. I do this so often and i’m really worried that people are going to pick up on it and get offended. It’s gotten to the point where I dread being around people because i’m worried they will pick up on my awkward body language.

    I’ve tried yoga, pilates, mediation, and trauma release exercises and nothing helps to relax my body. When I started doing yoga in January 2020, it really helped to get rid of the flinching, but I took a break from it, and when I started doing it again it stopped helping my body relax :(.

    Does anyone have any advice for me?

  31. I have had a (PTSD) Exaggerated Startle Response since I was in elementary school. There were two events, a forest fire across the street from my house AND being stuck in the bathroom of my home when the fire alarm (LOUD) went off. Fifty years later, I still shake my hands, arms & head as if terribly startled. It doesn’t happen often. Only when I hear a loud, sudden noise. Since I am a teacher, it happens at each fire drill. My students notice & laugh a little. I explain the traumatic event and WHY I get started so badly. Recently a girl thanked me for sharing and said that something similar happens to her.
    I now know the name to the response that has been happening for 50 years.

  32. Jay, I really enjoyed this article, thanks so much for your insight!
    Yesterday, I was in my car, in my driveway and opened my door to see my neighbor standing there and I screamed so loud it scared us both. I have a strong startle response and am working to regulate it. Thanks for the article and your work in this!

  33. I hada serious physical injury that we still haven’t fixed that has caused me to have tachycardia all day for two years now. Just recently I’ve been getting more startled at normal noises. I’ve been mostly bed bound during this entire time but it has been getting worse. I’m startled when someone coughs, sets downa bowl on the counter, when listening to songs, it’s getting bad.

    I’ve seen 30+ doctors trying to figure out how to fix my injury to no avail. I know I’m getting startled because of how much my nerves have been messed up.