Anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of different ways, depending on the individual. As one of our most utilised senses, sound plays a huge role in how we experience situations and if you’ve suffered a particular trauma with a specific sound this can be highly triggering. Separate from this, our sense of hearing plays a big role in assessing danger, so if we’re already feeling anxious or sensitive, any sudden sounds might cause further distress.
These physical symptoms of anxiety are often triggered by a release of the stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline in the caveman part of our brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. This puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Sound Sensitivity?
There are a number of reasons why anxiety sufferers might be more sensitive to sound. Firstly, if you’ve had a traumatic experience or suffer from PTSD, a sharp sound might remind you of the traumatic encounter. This might be that a car backfiring sounds like a gunshot or something similar.
Another reason could be that when our body activates our fight, flight or freeze response our entire body goes into high alert, ready to tackle any threats that might be lurking. As a result, we’re often quite jumpy and skittish, particularly around large or sudden sounds, appearing as if we’re more sensitive to noise.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
Like many physical symptoms of anxiety, the key to preventing this symptom lies in treating the anxiety, not alleviating the symptoms. This being said, if you’re suffering from anxiety and feel as if your body is on high alert and you’re jumpy or skittish, you might benefit from breathing exercises to calm your nervous system back down.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.