In the fast-paced nature of everyday life, it is common for people to feel startled once in a while. In fact, feeling startled is a natural reaction to something shocking or unexpected. However, for some people, startling may not just be an occasional reaction but a recurring pattern. Sometimes, this pattern of being startled easily might even be an indicator of underlying anxiety. In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between being startled and anxiety

Why Do We Startle?

As mentioned earlier, startling is a natural and instinctive response to an unexpected situation. It is also referred to as ‘’the fight or flight response. It is an inherent mechanism that is produced by the sympathetic nervous system. The function of the startle response is to protect us from potential threats and make our bodies ready for any incoming stressful situation. Being startled is usually a normal and adaptive reaction to a sudden, loud noise, a surprising event, or an unexpected touch. 

Defining Anxiety

Simply put, anxiety is our body’s response to a perceived threat. It is usually characterized by tension, thoughts of worry and physical symptoms such as increased heart rate and blood pressure It is common and quite normal for everyone to experience some amount of anxiety from time to time. In fact, some level of anxiety can motivate people to take action and, thus, enhance their focus and performance.

However, people with anxiety disorders may experience high levels of anxiety consistently or in specific situations, such as social gatherings or parties. Anxiety disorders can have a significant impact on one’s daily life and Overall functioning

The Link Between Anxiety And Being Startled

Few research studies have demonstrated that people with panic disorders or phobias (subtypes of anxiety disorders) show exaggerated startle reactions to threatening situations as compared to people who do not have anxiety, suggesting that there is indeed a link between anxiety and being startled. 

Anxiety And Heightened Stress Response

As mentioned earlier, anxiety is associated with exaggerated responses to stressful or threatening situations. This heightened sense of arousal can contribute to an increased sense of fear about incoming situations, putting people with anxiety at an increased risk of being startled easily.

Anxiety And The Nervous System

Anxiety has a profound impact on our nervous system, the part of the body responsible for producing the startled response. Usually, the nervous system calms down and the body starts getting back to its normal state after the stressful situation is over. However, for someone with anxiety, the nervous system is likely to remain heightened in anticipation of incoming stress. This constant state of arousal can make people prone to a startled response

Other Causes Of Being Startled Easily

While being startled easily can be linked with anxiety, it may not be associated with anxiety all the time. Sometimes people might be startled due to other reasons, such as

  • Persistent lack of sleep
  • Excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages 
  • Short-term stressors
  • Underlying conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Being startled easily is a common response to an unexpected situation. Thus, it may not be associated with anxiety all the time. People might be startled for a variety of reasons, such as lack of sleep, mild stress or the consumption of caffeinated beverages as well However, if someone gets startled easily and consistently, then it might be a sign of underlying anxiety, Recognizing this connection between being startled and potential anxiety is crucial for early diagnosis and treatment.


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  2. Ray, W. J., Molnar, C., Aikins, D., Yamasaki, A., Newman, M. G., Castonguay, L., & Borkovec, T. D. (2009). STARTLE RESPONSE IN GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER. Depression and Anxiety, 26(2), 147–154.
  3. Startle Easily Anxiety Symptoms. (n.d.). AnxietyCentre.Com. Retrieved March 11, 2024, from
  4. Why Am I So Jumpy and Easily Startled? (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2024, from

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin