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"Why do some people startle easily?"

ZocdocAnswersWhy do some people startle easily?


My wife is one of the jumpiest people I've ever met. She plays it down, but sometimes I worry about how easily she startles. Should I encourage her to speak with a psychiatrist, or am I needlessly concerned about this?


Being easily startled can be a completely benign non-significant finding, it can be inherited, or it can be a symptom of a psychiatric disease. Without seeing your wife, obtaining a detailed history, and examining her, it is difficult to be absolutely sure there is not some other condition that is manifesting itself as being easily startled. One cause of an increased startle response is a genetic condition known as hyperekplexia. This is a rare condition that manifests very early in life as generalized stiffness with exaggerated startle reactions. It is caused by mutations in a neurochemical receptor in the brain. This could be a consideration in your wife if she has any family history of it (remember it's rare). Psychiatric causes of an increased startle response include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is caused by a traumatic event (soldier at war, a car crash, family member dying in front of her etc). Afterwards, patients can have flash backs and often can be easily startled. Since these possible conditions have different causes. The best move would be for her to present her symptoms to her primary care physician. He or she will either know what treatment is best (if any at all) or know what type of specialist would be most apt to treat her condition. Good luck.

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