top of page
  • What is the startle response?
    The startle response is an unconscious response to perceived threatening stimuli, which is usually a noise or a movement. When startled, many things occur at the same time, including an involuntary bending of the limbs, a spasmodic avoidance movement of the head, and elevations in heart rate, respiration and skin conductivity. There is also a negative emotional state associated with it.
  • What is an exaggerated startle response?
    An exaggerated startle response occurs when someone’s brain perceives threats frequently when none exist. The mind can’t distinguish between real and false dangers correctly so it treats many events as dangerous that are not dangerous. It can occur in people who are born with overly sensitive nervous systems, in people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and in others as well. The startle response can be made worse by stress and anxiety.
  • If I use this program, will I completely lose my startle response?"
    No. The startle response is a physiological response that is very difficult to lose, except in cases of severe trauma, physical brain damage or extreme brain retraining. Buddhist monks reportedly do not demonstrate the startle response. They spend a great deal of their time in relaxed states and learn to interpret unexpected, jarring sounds and movements as unthreatening parts of the background just like any other benign noises and movements. Unless you spend as much time meditating as a Buddhist monk, you will retain some startle response. You are in control of when you stop using the program so you can decide when your response has reached an acceptable level for you.
  • What will it look like when I have reduced my startle response?
    Different people achieve different results. Your startle response will not be gone but should be lessened as your body learns to tune out unimportant stimuli. You can keep using the program until you have achieved your desired results. Many people find that a lessened response, even if still greater than other people, works fine for them.
  • How many audios are there?
    There are fifteen different relaxation audios. Each has a different theme, such as muscle relaxation or taking an imaginary walk in nature. Each relaxation audio has seventeen variations: one has no random sounds and sixteen have random sounds in various locations. The total number of audios is 255.
  • Do I have to listen to the audios in the order they are presented?
    No. You can listen in any order. Feel free to skip around. The first time you listen to a new relaxation audio, begin with the first audio that has no random sounds. After you have heard that audio, you can listen to any of the others with random sounds at any time.
  • Do I have to listen to all of the audios?
    No. They are presented to give you a variety to choose from so you can find ones that are relaxing for you. Feel free to skip any that don’t feel relaxing to you or that you do not like.
  • Can I repeat audios?
    Yes. You can repeat audios. The important thing is that you not memorize when the intrusive sounds are. As long as you aren’t able to anticipate when the sounds are, you can repeat audios. When you have listened to one enough to know when the sounds will appear, you should not use it any more.
  • Do I have to listen at the same time of the day?
    No. You do not have to listen at the same time of the day.
  • What if I miss a day?
    It does not matter if you miss a day. The more you listen, the faster you will heal. The more days you miss, the longer it will take to heal.
  • Do I have to be in a quiet place with my eyes closed when I listen?
    The program will not work if you do not feel relaxed while listening. You must have relaxation hormones flowing in your body. You are the judge of whether that is happening and how to best make that happen. For most people, that will mean they are in a quiet place with their eyes closed, but not for everyone.
  • Can I listen to more than one relaxation per day in order to speed up my healing?
    Yes. You can listen to as many as you would like per day. They will be most effective if you spread them out, such as listening to one in the morning and one in the evening. However, you can also listen to two in a row if you would like to.
  • How long will it take to heal?
    Reducing the startle response is a highly individual endeavor so it is impossible to know how long it will take for any given person. It is based on many factors, such as biology, trauma history, developmental history, sensory sensitivity, age and consistency in applying the Startle Reduction Program. The majority of people should experience a significant reduction in four to twelve weeks. Some people may take less time and some may take more. There should be improvement along the way.
  • How does the Startle Response Reduction Program work?
    The startle reduction program retrains your brain to tune out unimportant and unthreatening inputs. By experiencing unexpected, jarring noises repeatedly while in a relaxed state, the brain learns that these noises are not a threat. In the past, your brain generalized to think that unexpected noises and movements were a threat. Now it will begin to reprogram itself with the new information that these types of things are not a danger. When you have a repeated experience of being in a relaxed state and having something surprise you, your brain will rewire its neural pathways.
  • What research has been done regarding reducing exaggerated startle responses?
    Most research on reducing the startle response has been done on pharmaceutical medications. There are medications that have been demonstrated to reduce the startle response when taken consistently. Research shows that factors in a person's life can influence the extent of the startle response. Hypervigilance, stress, panic disorder, PTSD and anxiety can all increase the startle response. Research has shown that the response is influenced by levels of oxytocin (the hormone related to social interaction), which may explain why people who suffer from social anxiety are more likely to have an exaggerated startle response. There has been a small amount of research suggesting that the repeated random application of an acoustic startle sound may result in a lower startle response over time in those with PTSD. Additional research findings suggest that these sounds may be more effective when embedded in a background soundscape rather than surrounded by quiet. Research has shown that a lowered startle response is associated with decreased depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms.
  • Are there benefits to the Startle Response Reduction Program in addition to reducing the startle response?
    Since the basis of the Startle Reduction Program is relaxation audios, the benefits of mindfulness based stress reduction programs may accrue to users of this program. There is no research specifically linking this program to stress reduction benefits, however, without the random noises this program is identical to a mindfulness based stress reduction program. In general, proven benefits of mindfulness based stress reduction programs include better sleep, stress reduction, pain management, cognitive improvements, and decreases in depression, anxiety and anger.
  • Where can I learn more?
    More detailed information about the startle response can be found at Effective Mind Control.

Frequently Asked Questions


bottom of page