Startle Easily, Jumpy, Jittery Anxiety Symptoms

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 18, 2021

Startle Easily, Jumpy, Jittery Anxiety Symptoms

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Startle easily, jumpy, jittery on edge descriptions:

  • You startle easily, and more so than normal.
  • You notice that you jump or are startled at even small, insignificant sounds and/or noises, which normally wouldn’t startle you.
  • You find that a situation, circumstance, or event may frighten you, but more so than it normally would.
  • You feel that you are unusually jumpy, nervous, and jittery.
  • You feel as though your nerves are “trigger happy,” super sensitive, and overly reactive.
  • You are frightened more easily.
  • It seems little things scare you, which normally wouldn’t.
  • You are alarmed more easily, and over things that normally wouldn’t alarm you.

The startle easily symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may startle easily once and a while and not that often, startle easily off and on, or startle easily all the time.

The startle easily symptom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

The startle easily symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

The startle easily symptom 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.

The startle easily symptom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

The startle easily symptom can often seem more disconcerting when undistracted, trying to rest, when relaxing, or when going to or waking up from sleep.

All combinations and variations of the above are common.

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Why can anxiety cause a startle easily symptom?

1. An active stress response

Behaving anxiously activates the stress response. The stress response immediately causes specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body that enhance the body's ability to deal with a threat - to either fight with or flee from it - which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

A major part of the stress response changes include heightening our senses and stimulating the nervous system. This emergency readiness can cause a startle easily reaction.

Since stress hormones affect the body’s nervous system the most, persistently elevated stress can cause a wide range of nervous system symptoms, including the startle easily symptom.

2. Stress-response hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently, however, the body doesn't complete its recovery. Incomplete recovery can result in the body remaining in a state of semi emergency response readiness, which we call "stress-response hyperstimulation" since stress hormones are stimulants.

A body that becomes hyperstimulated can exhibit super sensitive senses and hyper reactivity, which can cause a person to startle easily, be jumpy, and jittery.

Since the nervous system is THE system that is responsible for sending and receiving information including sensory information, when the nervous system becomes hyperstimulated, it can become highly sensitive and reactive to stimulus, including sounds, movements, sensations, and smells. This super sensitivity is often referred to as a “case of the nerves,” being “on edge,” or being “jumpy.”

Having a hyper reactive nervous system is a common consequence of stress-response hyperstimulation. As stimulation increases, so does the nervous system’s sensitivity and reactivity.

While this symptom can be bothersome, it’s not harmful. But an indication of persistently elevated stress, and often, anxiety.

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How to get rid of the startle easily anxiety symptoms?

When this startle easily symptom is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, the startle easily symptom should subside and you should return to your normal self. 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 shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When the startle easily symptom is caused by persistent stress, such as that from behaving overly apprehensively, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where the startle easily symptom is eliminated.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from an active stress response and/or stress caused hyperstimulation, the startle easily symptom will completely subside. Therefore, it needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about the startle easily feeling. Again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this startle easily reaction will completely disappear.

There are some short-term strategies that can be helpful as well:

  • Reducing your stress as much as possible can reduce nervous system reactivity.
  • Controlled relaxed breathing can calm down the nervous system, making it less reactive.
  • Avoiding simulants can also allow the nervous system to fear down.
  • Getting good sleep can calm an overly reactive nervous system.
  • Regular light to moderate exercise is a good way to diffuse stress and calm the body.
  • Having fun is a good stress buster.

And so on.

We list a number of other natural and practical strategies in Chapter 4 in the Recovery Support area of our website.

For a more detailed explanation about all anxiety symptoms, including this startle easily symptom, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

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. Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including the startle easily anxiety symptom.