Top 10 Signs of a Dysregulated Nervous System

A dysregulated nervous system has a profound impact on most of the functions in your body, including heart rate, breathing, and digestion. Many people are not aware this is the underlying cause to many of the symptoms they experience, and so they can't start the journey to a more regulated state. So how do you recognize the signs and symptoms of a dysregulated nervous system?

Here's a list of the top 10 bodily and emotional signs of a dysregulated nervous system.

1. You're constantly on-edge and overwhelmed

One of the telltale signs of nervous system dysregulation is a sense of overwhelm. This seems counterintuitive, but it happens when you're not able to let go or feel like there are too many demands on your attention and energy at any given time.

You may feel like you can't keep up with everything, and you constantly feel on edge, worrying about what's next.

You tend to be stressed out and experience an ongoing sense of overwhelm, even when things seem to be going well.

You have difficulty relaxing. It's difficult for you to calm your mind enough to get into a state of relaxation. You might find yourself constantly worrying or thinking about your to-do list, your future, relationships, etc.

2. You're frequently snappy, irritable, and reactive

Do you feel like you're constantly on the verge of snapping or losing your temper? This could be a sign that you're not managing your emotional stress well.

You may feel frustrated and antsy, all at once. Even small things can set off an intense reaction because it feels like there's too much sitting on top of this pressure building up inside you.

You tend to overreact in certain situations. It becomes difficult for you to control the way you react or feel. This can affect your relationships and the way you think about yourself.

You may wonder why you can't control your reactions and emotions, especially if your feelings are swinging from one extreme to another without any warning or build-up.

You tend to overreact in certain situations. It becomes difficult for you to control the way you react or feel. You may be easily upset, frustrated, and angered by things. Your mood changes quickly (e.g., from sad to happy) without any reason.

3. You experience chronic pain and illness

Life stressors such as chronic stress, trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and illness can lead to nervous system dysregulation. Chronic nervous system dysregulation can lead to any variety of chronic pain and illness.

Suppose you've been to multiple doctors, specialists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and more that lead to only temporary relief and no long-term solutions. In that case, you could be experiencing nervous system dysregulation.

You may also experience symptoms and pain flair-ups without any apparent cause or trigger. This is often a sign that your body has been experiencing high levels of sympathetic arousal for an extended time, leading to all sorts of physical problems over time.

You may feel pain or illness for a long time, even when you make an effort to eat right and exercise. You may feel like your symptoms are never going away. It's not just physical, either; sometimes you have trouble sleeping well or concentrating on anything other than how bad the pain is in your head.

4. You're highly sensitive to sensory stimuli

You are easily overwhelmed by strong sensory stimuli and probably identify as a highly sensitive person (HSP). Loud noises, certain smells, and being in big crowds, certain noises, and other sensory input can be tough to manage.

You also have a strong reaction to pain and are easily irritated or stressed by small things that others don't notice, like clutter or the sound of chewing gum. You may find yourself becoming fearful, anxious, or depressed because sensory input is always overwhelming for you.

HSPs often have a low threshold for sensory stimulation. Loud noises, glaring lights, and strong smells can be distracting to you. You might even experience these stimuli as painful or unpleasant.⁣

5. You experience sleep problems and daytime fatigue

You don't sleep well and feel tired during the day. You may find yourself yawning, feeling sleepy or groggy during the day, and having difficulty concentrating.

Nervous system dysregulation can disrupt the sleep cycle. This is because your nervous system has a hard time relaxing during sleep.

You may also experience problems regulating your temperature and heart rate, making it difficult to fall asleep at night. You might have a constantly elevated heart rate or feel too hot or cold despite the room's temperature. And you could be tossing and turning all night long because of these issues with regulating your body's systems.

You might not have enough energy for your daily tasks or enjoy activities with friends, family, or coworkers. It's hard for you to get motivated when you're exhausted all the time.

6. Chronic attention and concentration problems

You have trouble focusing on tasks or conversations. When the nervous system is on high alert, it's hard to concentrate because your nervous system is always on the lookout for danger.

Even if you're not in a dangerous situation, your body stays alert, making it hard to concentrate or focus on long-term goals.

Maybe you misplace things, forget to complete assignments at school, lose track of your thoughts when talking with others–or all these symptoms at the same time! You feel like you're not as able and sharp as other people are.

7. Cravings and extreme appetite changes

Your appetite might go up and down. You could be hungry all the time, or you might feel like you can't eat enough. This is because your body's stress hormones are in a constant state of flux, and that can cause changes to your appetite.

Or maybe it's just binges with no apparent trigger: one minute you're eating average amounts of food, then suddenly you're overwhelmed by a need to consume large quantities of sugar, salt, fat.

If you have trouble controlling what you eat, this could be a sign that something is not right with the way your nervous system regulates its metabolism.

8. Immune and Hormonal Symptoms

Your nervous system regulates every system in the body, so one of the most common symptoms of dysregulation is having a reduced or excessive immunological response to stressors, as well as hormonal imbalances.

9. Skin and Gut Conditions

People who suffer from conditions like Rosacea and IBS often suffer from a dysregulated nervous system. They're often told to “reduce stress” in their life but have a hard time understanding what to do and how to heal. Once they take care of their nervous system health, and create a resilient, regulated system, their rosacea and IBS subside.

10. You're highly sensitive to other people's emotional states

You may identify as an empath. But your sensitivity to other people's emotional states is damaging your mental and physical health in the long run. You feel the need to take care of other people, even when they're not asking for it. No matter how much you do, there's never enough, and you end up getting drained. This leaves you feeling miserable and resentful towards the person who is taking your energy without giving.

Discovering Nervous System Regulation for Yourself

The nervous system regulates everything from your mood to how you feel and think. If it's dysregulated, that can cause several bodily symptoms, some of which we've discussed in this post.

Healing your nervous system can take time, but it's worth the effort. The health of your nervous system can affect your quality of life on a day-to-day basis, and the earlier you begin to heal, the better.

Discovering Nervous System Regulation for Yourself

If you're interested in: 

  • Learning how sensitivity impacts your nervous system
  • Get in control of how your body and mind feel.
  • Reducing emotional and physical symptoms in your life

Take the first step by taking the quiz “Are you an Orchid, Tulip or Dandelion?”

Nervous System Regulation - Best Resources to Get Started

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Are you an Orchid, Tulip or Dandelion?   Find out your Sensitivity Profile (FREE) and receive an 8-minute video with an in-depth explanation of your results via email. 

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Connect to the Universe Meditation: Activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System and a profound sense of peace with this meditation (FREE). Guided by Dr. Linnea.

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About the Author

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea has dedicated 20+ years serving patients, first to a small number of individuals and then to thousands of people all over the world through digital technology. As a highly sensitive person, she understands the challenges faced by those with a sensitive nervous system and created HYNS with them in mind.