Startle reflex

Hi guys Wondered if any of you have experienced an abnormal startle response - ie as if it is supercharged? I am wondering if I have something similar developing. I am getting violently powerful body jerks especially lying down, as if electric shocked or hit in the stomach. It sounds quite similar to an excessive startle reaction , except mine seem to trigger from anxious thoughts or sometimes frustrated annoyance, as well as spontaneously without obvious trigger, rather than being startled by loud noise or being shocked to see or feel something.

Hi, I was only thinking about this recently, in relation to anti-depressants. I haven’t taken any recently, but one of the posts on this forum prompted me to think about side-effects I got, when I was on them years ago. One of them (cipramil/citalopram) gave me a very violent startle reflex, so I would jump out of my skin just from post coming through the letterbox, or the phone ringing, and very ordinary domestic noises like that. Quite ironic, really, as I was taking the stuff for anxiety - though probably already had MS, but didn’t know. So I wonder if you are on anything like that? Tina

Thanks Anita, Funnily enough I took 1 tablet of citalopram (for the first time) the night I got these severe effects but actually it started the night before in a far more mild twitchy rather than violent jerky way. That night I had stopped taking a sleeping tablet I had taken for about a month which I was not allowed to continue because it is addictive and was given the citalopram instead. I didnt take any more cotalopram because a doc thought it might have some connection, but I am still experienceing these jerks although the frequency over 24 hours has gone down from a few hundred to maybe 60 to 80 and the violence has usually been less. I dont think the usual startle stimuli affect me though, it seems mostly random or to do with thoughts - I am having a very stressful time at work at present.


Probably a bit of a stretch to pin it on the citalopram, if you’d already noticed something similar before you ever took it. Besides, your symptoms weren’t exactly similar to mine - I never “startled” in response to a thought, that I know of. In my case, it was definitely noises, but ones that wouldn’t ordinarily have been a cause for concern. I’m not usually scared of the post arriving, unless I’m waiting for important news, like exam results, or medical tests, or something like that! So it was definitely something to do with the citalopram. It was almost as if it made everything seem louder - just the letters plopping onto the mat sounded like some major incident - hence the scare factor.

Leaving aside the possible AD connection, stress and anxiety are known to exacerbate MS symptoms though. I wonder if these jerks are a neurological thing you would have had anyway, but have been getting worse due to recent stressful circumstances?

I have sometimes found even what most people would regard as quite trivial levels of stress have set-off my symptoms. For example, I remember literally going weak-kneed when a well-meaning but over-pushy friend was trying to get me to go round for dinner, when I didn’t want to. It wasn’t even an argument - just trying to tactfully escape from somebody being too nice. I’m sure they’d have been mortified if they’d realised their persistence was making me feel ill.



hi mr b,

don’t know if you mean hyper-reflexes (yup, got them) or really wonderful(?!) electric shock type thingummies, get them too… dread them they’re horrific, scare the $%&@ out of me actually. the hyper-reflexia, not sure about the spelling, has been a problem for me for 10 years or so, particularly my knees, blink reaction and, if i’m sleepy, any remotely loud noise makes me jump out of my skin.

the other, awful one seems to come and go as it pleases. i tend to get a run of these things, they can last for any time from about 10 minutes to 2-3 hours. i start to feel as though an electric shock has jolted down one or other leg, then nothing for a minute or two, then another jolt… and on it goes. the only thing i can do to lessen the jolts is to keep moving the leg every time in the hope that it’ll lessen the next shock, while simultaneously trying to breath gently and remain as calm as possible, when calm is the last thing these things make me feel. i just read this post back, i hope it makes sense. perhaps you can relate to one or both of these damn things.

sorry to babble on…

wendy x

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May be it is just a bizarre reaction to stress; if so, I would never have believed it possible. Yes, I was thinking it could otherwise be hyper reflexia. On the electric shock; I mean the movement is as powerfully energised as if caused by one; I dont actually get the feeling of electricity. In fact it is not painful and I am really surprised I havent ended up with tender or pulled muscles as I can compare the power to having powerful sneezing fits or a prolonged bad cough which has often left me with sore ribs in the past.

Hi Tina, glad you posted about your startle response. My daughter has been doing that for the last couple of weeks, jumping at shadows or me just walking into a room she is in, she jumps out her skin as though I have creeped up on her. Normal domestic noises and she is jumping out the chair almost. May look into all the drugs she is taking and see what the side effects are. Lx

Hi Lindylou,

Yes, some drugs can have what’s known as a “paradoxical reaction” - in other words, a side-effect of increasing the symptom they were supposed to treat. A lot of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication list depression and anxiety as possible side-effects, though obviously this doesn’t happen in all cases, or they’d be completely useless. One obstacle I faced is that it can be difficult to get it recognized that adverse psychological changes are a side-effect. Once they know you are anxious and/or depressed, and you start reporting you are having bad dreams, or scared by loud noises, they tend to say: “Yes, but that is all part of your condition, isn’t it?”

“Really? Even though I’ve battled anxiety for many years, but it’s never, ever, taken this form before?”

Even an anxious person knows what is normal for them, and what is definitely more anxious than usual. I used to worry about stupid things, and get “butterflies” and nausea, but NOT have blood-curdling nightmares, and jump at the slightest thing. So I knew something had changed.



isn’t it just a joy when something startles you when you’re standing and you almost fall over, or slam into a wall or furniture. this flaming condition really is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’, AND i keep misstyping words today and having correct words i’ve misspelled… ROLLOCKS! (that one was intentional, hee-hee!).

onward and upward.

wendy x

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