Exaggerated startle response or hyperekplexia is a neurologic disorder that causes people to become “jumpy.” If you’ve ever overdosed on coffee, then you know what that’s like. You become easily startled by auditory or tactile stimuli. It’s a rare disorder, but an exaggerated startle response is a common symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Here are 12 ways to stop exaggerated startle response or hyperekplexia and fight anxiety:
1. Practice mindfulness exercise
When you become easily startled, your body becomes tense. Your brain is basically on high alert more often than it should be. This makes it easier to have a panic attack and an exaggerated startle response to everything. Mindfulness can help treat exaggerated startle response (especially if it’s a symptom of PTSD).
For many people, focusing on their reaction after they’ve become startled helps make them feel “normal” again. You’ve probably been told by people, “just try not to react” whenever you bring up your anxiety, but let’s face it, that’s pretty much impossible.
Instead of pretending not to react, what you can do is focus on your reaction and try to make yourself return to your normal state as quickly as possible. With the help of mindfulness exercises, such as yoga, meditation, breathing, etc., you can shift your focus to whatever you want. This will allow you to control your body and how you react to things or situations. When you begin to observe your surroundings instead of responding to them, you’ll be able to focus easier on tasks you’re doing, and you won’t become easily startled.
2. Medication to treat exaggerated startle response
Treating exaggerated startle response or hyperekplexia involves clonazepam as an anti-anxiety and anti-spastic drug. Some other alternative medicines used to treat hyperekplexia are carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, diazepam, 5-hydroxytryptophan, piracetam, and sodium valproate.
Valium can be used to lower the exaggerated startle response. Of course, you should talk to your doctor first if you think you have hyperekplexia and need medications for it.
3. Caffeine makes people become easily startled
The most predictable cause of exaggerated startle response is caffeine. Too much of it can make anyone jumpy, and it also worsens symptoms of anxiety. People these days usually don’t go a day without caffeine, and that’s problematic—people who consume excessive caffeine become startled and irritated easily.
They will become more easily startled by noises, touch, and bright lights than people who don’t consume caffeine. If you drink too much coffee every day, then maybe it’s time to turn to other things that will help keep you awake.
4. Eliminate stress from your life
Stress is also one of the causes of an exaggerated startle response. If you suffer from anxiety, you’re more likely to get stressed than people who don’t have anxiety. When you’re stressed, you become more anxious, which triggers the fight or flight response in your body. You end up becoming jittery and nervous. Jitteriness causes you to become easily startled by your surroundings.
If you want to get rid of stress from your life, try keeping a journal and write about the things that stress you out. This will make it easier for you to identify the stressors in your life, and then you can figure out a way to either change them or remove them entirely from your life.
5. Drink chamomile tea to stop exaggerated startle response
There are two chamomile plants. One is called German chamomile, and the other one is called English chamomile. German chamomile has higher medical value and is used often to stop an exaggerated startle response. Chamomile tea has a lot of benefits: it helps soothe an upset stomach, helps with skin conditions, and of course, helps calm people who become easily startled.
A study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that people who drank chamomile tea regularly found that it reduced some of their anxiety symptoms. Chamomile tea has a soothing effect on people, and it’s a great way to reduce your exaggerated startle response or hyperekplexia.
6. Exercise regularly
Just like mindfulness practices, exercise can also help you become more calm and level-headed. You should exercise at least 5 times a week. Regular exercise improves your concentration, focus, and discipline.
Even taking a brisk walk every day can reduce anxiety symptoms. When you work out at the gym, you have to pay close attention to your muscle groups. This muscle observation will strengthen your focus and lower your exaggerated startle response. It will teach you to relax and concentrate on your surroundings, which will help you become more observant.
7. Breathing exercises
Deep breathing and other breathing exercises will enhance your sense of observation and be less susceptible to be easily startled. You’ll be more aware of your surroundings and your body. With breathing techniques, you have to focus on the way you breathe and your body. Focused breathing will naturally calm your mind, which allows you to enter a state of serenity.
When you practice breathing techniques every day, you’ll become more conscious of your environment, and you’ll notice your exaggerated startle response decreasing with time.
One breathing technique that you can do is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. You breathe through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and then breathe out through the mouth while counting to 8. If you practice this exercise twice daily, you won’t become startled as easily.
8. Let yourself be nervous
Sometimes, the best thing to do is just to let yourself feel whatever it is you’re feeling. The more you try to resist a feeling, the stronger it becomes. When you have a panic attack, and you try to subdue it by attempting to fight it, it just becomes worse. You end up feeling more anxious.
The same is right about having an exaggerated startle response or hyperekplexia. When you feel jittery and try to stop yourself from reacting to stimuli, you mostly get more jittery. The right thing is to accept that you’ve been startled by something. Please take a deep breath and tell yourself that it’s okay to feel this way. In just a matter of seconds, the feeling will pass, and you’ll be in a normal state again.
9. Remind yourself that you don't have to be perfect
When you failed a job interview or couldn’t enter your dream university, you’re only human. We all make mistakes, and there are factors way beyond our control a lot of the time. When you start to feel anxious and jittery because your thoughts spiraled out of control and you can’t stop thinking about that one silly mistake you made, remind yourself that it’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to err.
When you acknowledge your imperfections and blemishes, you will feel calmer. You will have fewer bouts of anxiety, which will lead to a reduced exaggerated startle response. Learn to accept your “shadow” so you can become whole.
10. Exposure therapy for exaggerated startle response
Facing your fear is another way to fight against anxiety and jitteriness. Exposure therapy is a technique in behavior therapy that teaches people to overcome anxiety by exposing them to things or situations that are causing them to feel anxious and jittery.
If you get startled easily by auditory or tactile stimuli, then a therapist will most likely help you figure out what’s causing you to feel anxious and have you confront those things. Your fear and anxiety will reduce with each step, and with time, bright lights won’t seem as bright anymore, and loud sounds won’t seem as loud.
11. Genetic counseling
In many cases, hyperepklexia and exaggerated startle responses are genetic. People develop them at an early age, and they can be hard to treat when they grow up.
Genetic counseling is the process that helps people understand any genetic disorders they might be susceptible. They’re taught how to adapt to whatever psychological or medical condition they might have because of their genes. Suppose a genetic counselor discovers that an individual is at risk of developing hyperekplexia. The counselor will help them figure out how to cope when the disorder’s signs or symptoms start appearing.
Psychotherapy is the best option if nothing else works. A therapist will help you understand your condition better and cope with hyperekplexia and exaggerated startle responses professionally. Currently, there is no known cure for hyperekplexia. But a therapist will make you do physical and mental exercises that will help you overcome your anxiety, which will significantly reduce your exaggerated startle responses.
These psychotherapists will share therapeutic ways to be calmer and how to get your exaggerated startle response under control.
Moving forward with Psychotherapy
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Alternatively, if you need to seek psychotherapy, be sure to check out ahealo.com. Ahealo is an online psychotherapy platform with a diverse range of psychotherapists for many different fields of mental challenges. Ahealo provides ePsychotherapy at an affordable price, confidential, convenient (through a web page 1-1 private video call), and at your comfortable schedule.
With these options, we believe your insomnia can be resolved soon.
Take care and stay well.