Causes
Fact Checked

Anxiety and Sensitivity to Noise

Wendy M Yoder, Ph.D.
Anxiety and Sensitivity to Noise

Extreme stress can have a lasting effect on your well-being. In some cases, anxiety can cause you to become more sensitive to otherwise normal events, potentially leading to increased anxiety.

That is sometimes the case with anxiety and noise. Depending on your level of stress and anxiety, you may become more sensitive to noise, and loud noises or surprise noises may end up causing more anxiety.

The Cause of Noise Anxiety

Noise anxiety is most commonly a response to trauma, although in some ways it can affect those with nearly any type of anxiety. 

The main issue with noise anxiety is that it occurs because of a raised anxiety baseline, common with PTSD. Noise jumps the anxiety above the baseline, potentially leading to increased startle reflexes and possibly panic attacks.

What is a Raised Baseline?

Imagine anxiety fit on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is relaxation and 10 is complete and utter terror. People that undergo traumatic events or experience severe anxiety experience a raised baseline, which is when they can never get their number down to 1, 2, or 3. In a way, they are always living with an anxiety of 6, 7, or 8 on the scale.

Because the body is so adaptive, it adjusts to match that baseline. That means when you're experiencing a 6, 7, or 8 on the anxiety scale - which would normally signify a considerable amount of anxiety - they feel as though they're actually relaxed. Their mind has adjusted to reduce anxiety symptoms at this level.

But when something startles them or causes them to experience any type of burst in anxiety, suddenly they go from an 8 to a 9, and the body hasn't adjusted for that, so it still experiences profound anxiety. That's where anxiety from loud noises often comes from - it jumps the body up a little bit more on the anxiety scale for those that already have a much higher baseline than others.

Another reason that noise issues may result in anxiety is because noises can sometimes be associated with traumatic events. This is known as classical conditioning. If a loud noise or some type of noise became attributed to anxiety something that causes fear or simply anxiety itself, hearing that type of noise may cause you to experience more anxiety.

Also, anxiety can cause people to become more irritable and sensitive in general. Hearing noises may simply cause the person to feel overwhelmed, as though they cannot control their thoughts or the world around them. Anyone that has started to feel like they're losing control with the world around them may find that too many noises causes them to experience stress.

Finally, some people fear noises with anxiety. It's not clear why these noises occur, but those that hear noises as a result of their anxiety and panic often experience more anxiety as a result, worried that they're going crazy.

Reducing the Anxiety of Sounds and Noises

If you find that noise is starting to make you feel anxious, or that you're responding to noises with intense stress, you should seek help immediately. Talk to a professional, especially if you think you may have developed post traumatic stress disorder. Getting help right away is the best way to make an impact.

Share Rate this article:
Anxiety and Asthma
Related Medical Issues

Anxiety and Asthma

We’d like your feedback
Was this article helpful?
Yes No