Autistic Confessions – Easily Startled (Too Much Anxiety)

I’ve got a trigger-hair panic reaction. Its like my startle response is tuned way up higher than the average person. I try very hard to control it but I am still easily startled.

When someone drops something, pops a balloon, closes a door, or makes any other sudden sound it makes my heart race. Adrenaline pumps through my body and by breath speeds up. I practice slow breathing concentrating on my feet and breath willing the panic to stop – but why does this happen so often?

Its not just sounds that set off my fear response. I feel like things around me are constantly triggering it. For example catching something unexpected in my fiend of vision is equally disturbing.

Other things that make me panic are surprises, not knowing what is going on, and conversations with strangers. Any time I have to speak using words in a meeting, even if it is a one on one meeting, my armpits and hands sweat as my heart races.

Although I am always fighting this invisible battle, it’s like panic is my default response to things. Nobody sees me stress but inside is a tornado of emotions. Desperately I seek control of the whirling monster  inside of me.

The anxiety is always trying to overcome me and it is constant. I have been living in a state of anxiety for most of my life – it should be no wonder my health is not great. The toll it is taking on me is becoming more and more obvious.

There are certain things that ease me, writing, exercising, creating, learning, meditation, and long walks. I am working hard to calm the beast because I worry my anxiety may be the source of most of my issues.

This is a fight I have to win.

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31 thoughts on “Autistic Confessions – Easily Startled (Too Much Anxiety)”

  1. Sometimes I panic and my heart races even when checking emails, I have to take a deep breath and wait a few seconds to calm myself before clicking to read the contents. This is especially the case if it is work-related emails or sometimes, emails from someone I value. I get paranoid anticipating the contents of the email.

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  2. Hi AA, and please be assured that you are a select member of a very special club 🤓
    The best I could describe myself is scaredycat, which literally includes besides everything you mentioned, my own shadow if I happen to notice it in my visual angle, unexpectedly. And when this is paired with being an over 50 male, 6′ over, rather massive with a beard, you can guess the effect on people, when I scream back, yes like a girl, apologies to girls 😇
    The best I could do is St John’s Wort, took my anxiety and stress edges off.
    It doesn’t cure it but I need less panic attack medication. 😎

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I can relate to the hightened startle. I had really bad PTSD for a couple years after ending an abusive relationship. Any unexpected, loud noise would make me jerk, heart racing. Sometimes I’d just burst into tears. It’s no fun at all.
    My daughter has anxiety. She treats it with medical cannabis. I don’t know if that’s an option for you or even something you’d want to try. It helps her alot and she prefers it to chemical pharmaceuticals.
    Keep taking care of you however you can/must! Stress is so harmful to our bodies and spirits.💞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would be open to it because it is more natural however I do not qualify where I live they have very specific conditions listed and I don’t have one of them. I WISH AUTISM could get added to the list in all states – not for me but for those who are much worse off than me. Look up Cannabis and Autism on Youtube. The videos broke my heart. It helps the brain somehow. The videos of it stopping seizures blew my mind. I am sad because many people who are very sick could be missing out on something that may actually help.

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      1. My kiddo has had some of those aggression episodes. The antipsychotics that are authorized for children, Risperidone & Abilify, are scary. The Risperidone made him gain weight & develop breast tissue so he’s on ability& 3 other meds. We want to try cannabis but he’s 8 and it’s not widely accepted. He also has ADHD & sleeping problems so the meds are for that. We aren’t trying to treat his autism but the other DX.

        Have you always had this anxiety or is it caused by having to fit in or pass? Just curious if having to appear NT the main prob causing the anxiety.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have this too, and it’s annoying, embarrassing, and frustrating. At work, coworkers are reluctant to approach my desk area because I jump so hard it scares them when I do it. Then there’s the one person who thinks it’s funny and likes to make a “pssst!” sound when he comes up behind me.

    How are your reflexes when tested? Mine are exaggerated – my neurologist labeled it ‘hyperreflexia’ but didn’t find any specific cause, and I’m wondering if that and the startle reflex are related and its just part of the different ‘wiring’?

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  5. And win you will! I wonder what your birth was like? I know for my Aspie son, his central nervous system’s first memory was that of life and death. That seems to be his disposition since birth. To be able to write about it and share your story is a huge step in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Totally empathise. The slightest thing makes me feel like I have narrowly missed being hit by a car. It’s horrible. And has got worse for me in the last few years. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Have you ever considered looking into autohypnosis? Some people are good subjects, others not. Auto means you learn how to do it and use it on yourself. I took a short course in it years ago and find it useful. It can be an effective way to calm reactions but also to prepare for management of reactions. You can begin by reading up on it and then look for a nearby practitioner of hypnotherapy.

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  8. I was frustrated today by my Doctor’s Receptionist saying that I couldn’t collect my repeat prescription script because they only received the notification today – I made the order online yesterday – and that I had to try again later. I was in a huff driving to a nearby town to run errands and nearly cut someone off a the mini roundabout in the village where my Doctor’s is based.

    I normally use Chamomile Tea to calm me down.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I know that feel. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to hide my fear reactions to literally everything: animated movies for kids, sudden sounds, the radio stopping, movement, just seeing something in the corner of my that I can’t distinguish right away.

    For me it’s easier today, perhaps because I have more control over my life and I’m not as affected by peer pressure anymore. Today I only socialise with people that accept me for who I am, but as a kid other kids would laugh. Even teachers laughed at me when I jumped up in fear.

    That said, I have no idea of what can be done about it.

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  10. This sounds a lot like myself. Especially when you mentioned things catching your eye unexpectedly and it making you jump. For me, it’s kind of like I’m on high alert all the time, expecting everything I see or hear to be bad. But like yourself, I think that’s because I’m in a constant state of panic. I think with this sort of thing, I’ve had to be honest with myself but I also have confidence in coping with it. I’m still afraid of going out alone so I’m not quite that strong yet, but I believe that with the right will power and good relaxation techniques, it can be dealt with. I understand it works differently for everyone, but maybe find something that soothes you and keeps you occupied. I always believe in keeping the mind active so it doesn’t have time to freak.
    I wish you all the best for the future 🙂 x

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  11. I’ve noticed a lot of crossover with my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Autism (the two go together quite often, it seems) with symptoms. EDS includes an overproduction of adrenaline, which reads outwardly as anxiety and/or hypervigilence. It might be worth considering that you have some connective tissue disorder (there are many) if you deal with persistent anxiety or hypervigilence. If you wind up with a CTD, treating it can help the “high-strung” feeling. Also, an MTHFR mutation can cause different foods to induce anxiety. That you can check for $200 at 23andme.com. I did the more simplified blood test through a Dr and was able to lessen my anxiety and depression by adapting my diet and supplements to fit the mutations I have. Just some thoughts. I hope you find something helpful. 💜

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  12. The first few sentences of this post hit so close to home. I startle at everything – phone ringing, the sudden fizz & pop when you open a soda can, or just any surprise noise in general. “Why do you get startled all the time?” is something that I struggle to answer.

    I’m with you on that fight. Hope we find some way out of it ❤

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  13. I have no idea if these things could help any other spectrum folks, but stuff I personally connect with lowing my fear of some situations:

    1.) reading scholarly stuff about different types of humans, so that I had a cognitive model that at least potentially explained more of what people do… cross-cultural anthropology about women’s status (since I’m female); psychology, esp. social psychology; animal behavior and how to come up with your own hyptheses and create mini-tests of them; primate social behavior in particular (it seems to me that some of human behavior is right out of the chimp dominance playbook… I like bonobos better though!). Ethology and observing animals closely helped me learn to watch people better, and be flexible about correcting my errors. It’s intellectual, but intellect can become less rigid. (It’s good to remember that science is always changing too.)

    Fight-or-flight reflexes are also something we share with other animals, and they have really important purposes. We can “condition” ourselves sometimes by figuring mentally out what is actually safer, and plunking our selves there — ancient reptile brain and newer cortex all together.

    I think intellect may be infinitely adaptable. Our emotional selves have particular needs too, and we aspies can use our intellects to help our emotions if we intellectually understand ourselves better… I feel like my intellectual side has about 100 more IQ points than my emotional side, sometimes… My emotions are very very slow to take in new info, in a weird way.

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    1. p.s. by “conditioning” I meant, with some things, exposing yourself over and over to the problem situation, can reduce a bad reaction to it — but only if it’s really actually “safe”! Like a bit of public speaking but with really nice supportive people, for me — not saying it could work for everyone in all cases.

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  14. I just saw on local TV that Lego Land in Winter Haven, FL is now providing escape rooms throughout the park for Autistic children and special passes to help children avoid having to wait in line for “forever.”
    I think you’ll think these ideas should be really helpful.

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  15. I have a heightened startle response, most always noise-related. I have precious few seconds before the startle processes directly over to meltdown. For me, autism is very disabling, isolating and maddening. I am on lots of meds to help with anxiety and mood.

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  16. Dear Anne,

    That is a tough battle. I will keep on praying you get relief and understanding how to navigate through anxiety. Hope that is part of your mediation time to ask God for strength and victory over those stresses. Hang in there,

    Gary On Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 2:08 AM Anonymously Autistic wrote:

    > anonymouslyautistic posted: “I’ve got a trigger-hair panic reaction. Its > like my startle response is tuned way up higher than the average person. I > try very hard to control it but I am still easily startled. When someone > drops something, pops a balloon, closes a door, or makes any o” >

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I also have a startle response. Even though I don’t have autism, I do identify with nearly everything you write about. It is closely related to many of my own diagnoses, which is probably why.

    Back to the topic at hand, I’ve finally taught myself not to drop when I’m startled. My response is to drop down, curling up (kneeling not lying down), covering myself with my arms to protect myself. When that has happened it freaked people out. Now I just freeze and let the feeling pass over me as I assure myself that the world is still moving on in the right direction, so to speak.

    My wish is that no one experience this but it is nice to know I’m not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. YUP. took a break from you telling everyone my life. 😀
    Practice controlled breathing all day and night. Controlled being “natural”.
    Inhale and let your abdomen expand; not your chest. Exhale, and let your abdomen fall in. Repeat this until it becomes natural. This is how babies breathe and as I did it, it helped a good bit. The only cure I can honestly think of are mental distractions as the day goes on. Think of your favorite song, speech, craft, hobby, or something you simply enjoy as you work or trek about. Don’t see the people but the objective and the thoughts of your own mind. Sounds are only worthwhile when everyone else begins to freak out, or there is something directly in front of you. Look up and down every 30 feet or so, so you’re just fine with future steps. This helped me a lot. EVERYTHING has equivalent exchange. This comes a tiny prices but it’s worth it for your sanity. I hope this helps; even if a little.

    Liked by 1 person

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