I have been reading a lot of articles on Startles Disease. In a Practical Neurology report, the following was stated: “We are all personally familiar with the startle response – the abrupt ‘start’ or ‘jump’ in response to sudden unexpected stimuli, like a loud noise. This startle is a non-suppressible reflex, which alerts us to abrupt changes in our environment that may threaten our safety. It is a reflex with survival value. But, if excessive or too easily triggered, it can interfere with daily functioning, or cause falls or injuries, and it is then a pathological response. The startle reflex is thought to be mediated at the level of the midbrain or below. The intensity of the startle reflex in humans varies between individuals and is increased by anxiety, fatigue or emotion (consider your response to a door slamming as you are watching a late night horror movie).”
Many of us with MS have a type of Startles Disease. Since it is neurological in cause, I see no conflict with that diagnosis. It is a very disturbing symptom and, as the article above states, it can cause us to fall and hurt ourselves.
One of the problems I have with startling so intensely is that it causes my heart to race and my body to nearly go limp. I feel totally drained and frightened. Even when I know something is going to happen, a noise, movement or light can trigger this response. I have mentioned this to my neurologist but he just shrugs it off. Some others of you have mentioned also having this problem with your doctor.
Most people jump when something happens unexpectedly. That is normal. Those of us that “startle” do so to the extreme. A cough, light coming on, sneeze or other normal occurrence may cause us to react in an extreme manner. It is very disheartening.
My husband is a very handy guy. He has built a workshop and a gazebo in our backyard and a really nice patio on the back of our house. He was not satisfied with the patio so he screened it in. During the first summer after he had built it, we knew that I would not be able to enjoy it. The heat was beating me up too bad. So, he closed it in and made a room out of it. It is one of my favorite places in the house. We have a nice wooden bench, woodstove, rocking chair and swing in that room.
Unfortunately, over the last few years, there is a robin that cannot get through her beautiful little head that she cannot build a nest in the stovepipe. She will peck and peck on it trying to get into it. I wish I could tell her that it is not possible so she would not expend so much energy on that project.
What has this to do with startles? When we are in the room, and our robin friend begins to peck on that pipe, I nearly jump out of my skin. Even though I see her fly up there and know she is going to do it, it does not stop the startle reflex.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to know in advance every little thing that will happen. Actually, we would probably not want to know………..but I sure would like to be able to control this jumpy, nervous, startling reflex I have. I don’t really think it is actually possible to jump out of your skin, although I DO think I have tried it several times! J