Anxiety And Hyperreflexia

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated March 12, 2022

hyperreflexia - brisk refexes

Hyperreflexia (brisk reflexes) – reflexes that are faster than normal, jumpy, and seem “trigger happy” – is a common anxiety disorder symptom, including anxiety and panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and others.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and having hyperreflexia (brisk reflexes) symptoms.

Hyperreflexia Common Symptom Descriptions

  • Your body’s reflexes are faster than what you think is normal.
  • Your reaction to stimulus is much faster than it used to be.
  • You are more “jumpy” and startle more easily than you used to be.
  • Your doctor has noticed some of your reflexes are “brisk,” “quicker,” and more responsive.
  • Your reflexes seem “trigger happy.”

This symptom can affect one reflex action, many reflex actions, or all reflexes. Hyperreflexia can also migrate from one location to another and then back again or affect only a few reflexes at a time and then all reflexes another time.

This symptom can occur rarely, frequently, or persistently and day after day.

Hyperreflexia can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms or occur by itself.

It can also precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no apparent reason.

Hyperreflexia can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This symptom can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

All the above combinations and variations are common.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, or Hyperstimulation Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to or causing your anxiety symptoms, including feeling like impending doom symptoms.

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Why Anxiety Can Cause Hyperreflexia

Medical Advisory

Talk to your doctor about all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

Additional Medical Advisory Information.

When brisk reflexes are solely attributed to anxiety, anxiety can cause this symptom in many ways. Here are some of the most common:

1. The Stress Response

Anxiety activates the stress response, which prepares the body to “fight or flee.” This survival reaction is often referred to as the fight or flight response.[1][2]

The stress response brings about many body-wide changes because stress hormones are powerful stimulants that quickly stimulate the body into immediate action.

This stimulating effect increases the body’s defense capability when in real danger where we need to escape or fight to protect ourselves from harm.

Some of the stress response changes include:

  • Quickly converts the body’s energy reserves into “fuel” (blood sugar) so that we have an instant boost of energy.
  • Increases nervous system activity to more quickly detect and react to danger.
  • Heightens most of the body’s senses to be more keenly aware of and reactive to danger.

Since these survival changes push the body beyond its balance point (equilibrium), stress responses stress the body. As such, anxiety stresses the body. A body that becomes stressed can exhibit symptoms of stress.

Consequently, we can have hyperreflexia – brisk reflexes, feel “jumpy,” and “startle” more easily – when the stress response is active.

When in real danger, the “stimulating and hyperreflexia effect” is our ally.

Anxiety and an active stress response is a common cause of acute hyperreflexia.

2. Stress-Response Hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur too frequently, such as from overly anxious behavior, the body can become hyperstimulated (chronically stressed) since stress hormones are powerful stimulants.

Hyperstimulation is also often referred to as “hyperarousal,” “HPA axis dysfunction,” or “nervous system dysregulation.”[3][4]

Hyperstimulation (chronic stress) can cause the changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated. An overly excited and reactive nervous system is a common cause of hyperreflexia.

Therefore, chronic hyperreflexia is a common symptom of hyperstimulation.[5][6][7]

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Other Factors

Other factors can create stress and cause anxiety-like symptoms, as well as aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, including:

Select the relevant link for more information.

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How To Get Rid Of Hyperreflexia

When other factors cause or aggravate this anxiety symptom, addressing the specific cause can reduce and eliminate this symptom.

When an active stress response causes this symptom, ending the active stress response will cause this acute anxiety symptom to subside.

Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and needn’t be a cause for concern.

When hyperstimulation (chronic stress) causes brisk reflexes, eliminating hyperstimulation will end this anxiety symptom.

You can eliminate hyperstimulation by:

  • Reducing stress.
  • Containing anxious behavior (since anxiety creates stress).
  • Regular deep relaxation.
  • Avoiding stimulants.
  • Regular light to moderate exercise.
  • Eating a healthy diet of whole and natural foods.
  • Passively accepting your symptoms until they subside.
  • Being patient as your body recovers.

Visit our “60 Natural Ways To Reduce Stress” article for more ways to reduce stress.

As the body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops sending symptoms, including this one.

Symptoms of chronic stress subside as the body regains its normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

However, eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think, causing symptoms to linger longer than expected. This is the reason you have to be patient as the body recovers.

Even so, since hyperreflexia is a common symptom of acute and chronic stress, it's harmless and needn't be a cause for concern. It will subside when unhealthy stress has been eliminated and the body has had sufficient time to recover. Therefore, there is no reason to worry about it.

Anxiety symptoms often linger because:

  • The body is still being stressed (from stressful circumstances or anxious behavior).
  • Your stress hasn't diminished enough or for long enough.
  • Your body hasn't completed its recovery work.

Addressing the reason for lingering symptoms will allow the body to recover.

Since worrying and becoming upset about anxiety symptoms stress the body, these behaviors can interfere with recovery.

Passively accepting your symptoms – allowing them to persist without reacting to, resisting, worrying about, or fighting them – while doing your recovery work will cause their cessation in time.

Acceptance, practice, and patience are key to recovery.

Keep in mind that it can take a long time for the body to recover from hyperstimulation. It's best to faithfully work at your recovery despite the lack of apparent progress.

However, if you persevere with your recovery work, you will succeed.

You also must do your recovery work FIRST before your body can recover. The cumulative effects of your recovery work will produce results in time. And the body's stimulation must diminish before symptoms can subside.

  • Reducing stress.
  • Increasing rest.
  • Faithfully practicing your recovery strategies.
  • Passively accepting your symptoms.
  • Containing anxious behavior.
  • Being patient.

Faithfully practicing your recovery strategies will bring symptom relief in time.

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Therapy

Unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors cause issues with anxiety. As such, they are the primary reason why anxiety symptoms persist.[8][9][10]

Addressing your underlying factors (Level Two recovery) is most important if you want lasting success.

Addressing Level Two recovery can help you:

  • Contain anxious behavior.
  • Become unafraid of anxiety symptoms and the strong feelings of anxiety.
  • End anxiety symptoms.
  • Successfully address the underlying factors that so often cause issues with anxiety.
  • End what can feel like out-of-control worry.

All our recommended anxiety therapists have had anxiety disorder and overcame it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder and their Master's Degree and above professional training gives them insight other therapists don't have.

If you want to achieve lasting success over anxiety disorder, any one of our recommended therapists would be a good choice.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to treat anxiety disorder.

Typically, working with an experienced therapist is the only way to overcome stubborn anxiety.

Prevalence

In an online poll we conducted, 73 percent of respondents said they had hyperreflexia symptoms because of their anxiety.

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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including hyperreflexia (brisk reflexes) anxiety symptoms.

References

1. Berczi, Istvan. “Walter Cannon's ‘Fight or Flight Response’ - ‘Acute Stress Response.’” Walter Cannon's "Fight or Flight Response"  - "Acute Stress Response", 2017.

2. Godoy, Livea, et al. "A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications." Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, July 2018.

3. Yaribeygi, Habib, et al. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, 2017.

4. Z, Fatahi, et al. "Effect of acute and subchronic stress on electrical activity of basolateral amygdala neurons in conditioned place preference paradigm: An electrophysiological study." Behavioral Brain Research, 29 Sept. 2017.

5. Marker, Ryan, et al. "Psychosocial stress alters the strength of reticulospinal input to the human upper trapezius." Journal of Neurophysiology, Nov 2016.

6. CD, King, et al. "Differential effects of stress on escape and reflex responses to nociceptive thermal stimuli in the rat." Brain Research, Oct 2003.

7. Cherney, Kristeen. "Brisk Reflexes: What You Should Know." Healthline, 26 Feb 2019.

8. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

9. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.

10. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.