Feeling startled? : Hi all, My mother (5... - AF Association

AF Association

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Feeling startled?


Hi all,

My mother (58 years old) has a mechanical valve and pacemaker that was implanted two years ago. She is currently on Coumadin, Diltiazem, and Amiodarone. She was diagnosed with Afib when she got the pacemaker implanted. This past week she went to the hospital due to her afib and in the end the doctor performed a cardioversion which got things back to normal. Now, she's home and feeling a lot better. However, she's reported that sometimes she feels startled by the slightest sound like the ring of a cel phone for example. I guess it's like when you are sleeping and you suddenly feel like you're falling if that makes sense. Has anyone felt this? I attribute it to the fact that she spent the past week in the hospital and was exhausted by her afib.

5 Replies

I would suggest that the CV/AF has affected her ANS - autonomic Nervous System - the mechanism which controls the fight, flight, freeze response. For people with AF it is common for the ANS to function on constant 'high alert' mode, many people repost panic, chronic anxiety and a sense of doom with AF - just could be that your Mum had become accustomed to her AF and now her system finds it strange to be without? She has just had a strong bolt of electricity put through her, albeit with the best of intentions!

It may well settle down over time and I would suggest doing exercises such as breathing exercises regularly - slow breathing down, taking breath in for 11 - hold for 1 - breath out for 7 - hold - breath in etc. you can reduce the count to 7:5 if you can't manage 7:11 - the important thing to do is to slow your breathing rate and take deep, slow breaths. Practice daily for 5 mins and use every time the startle response kicks in.

This is a proven method of giving bio-feedback to the ANS which helps to sooth. Good idea to do it after every startle reaction - just focus on her breathing and slowing it down. It can also help for others to remind her to do this.

Reassurance from others also helps.

Very good answer CD as the day I returned from having my cardioversion my heart rhythm was immediately upset by my wife unexpectedly pressing the playback on the answer phone and as it started it made a noise like a duck and put my heart into fast beat.

Thankfully after a short nap it was restored and has stayed that way.

The breath retention that you suggest was something me did in yoga and was a early indicator of my valve problem.

That I could hold for the count of 12 but over time it lessened .

Thank you Mike

BobDVolunteer in reply to Stratton-sully

With practise is is quite possible to get your breathing down to the recommended six per minute. My best was four after much practise. Use stomach not shoulders to breath from diaphragm.

All of CDreamers advice is excellent.However, there are 2 'disorders'(which I have) Misophonia and Hyperacusis which might account for 'startledness'.Many doctors have never heard of these disorders and the only remedies that offer help are Mindfulness, breathing exercises and similar calming activities. Your mother may have enough to deal

with at the moment without embarking on new things to do but if you Google search you will find these disorders online and learn a bit about them which may help both of you.

Thank you so much for all of your responses! I really appreciate them and I've relayed them to mom, so she's feeling a lot better. She will be doing some of the breathing exercises too. Thanks so much again!

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