General Question

w2pow2's avatar

I know someone who can't get startled- Can this be a sign of any psychological or even psychotic conditions?

Asked by w2pow2 (485 points ) October 7th, 2009

As stated before, I know someone who can’t get startled. This person also shows a lack of sympathy for human life/ lack of conscience. I was wondering if the two were somehow related. How many people do you know that can’t be startled and what do you notice about their behavior?

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44 Answers

jackm's avatar

How much of a lack of sympathy do they show? if they frequently talk about killing people that you have some concern. Just use your common sense

w2pow2's avatar

I realize that it is a stretch to say that the two are related, but I am simple concerning this topic.
Can this point out any other psychological symptoms?

Darwin's avatar

When they give my son enough anti-psychotics he can’t be startled. He then has what is called a flat affect.

KatawaGrey's avatar

What kind of startled are we talking? Is your friend not startled when a loud noise happens and everyone else jumps? Or is he not startled when someone runs in and says, “I just got mugged!”?

w2pow2's avatar

@jackm They don’t really talk about killing people- they sometimes joke about it but then again we all do sometimes.
@KatawaGrey They can’t get startled if you sneak up behind them and go “Boo!”
One thing that makes us human is that we feel sympathy towards one another. I can’t stab you because doing so would make me feel horrible. It’s why we wince when someone else gets hurt.
I knew a woman once who watched her uncle die and didn’t feel a thing. She was raised by her uncle most of her life.
This person seems to show the same lack of sympathy. They don’t care if they harm anyone as long as it doesn’t affect them.

jackm's avatar

If they honestly don’t feel a thing for other people and can’t be startled then you do have something to worry about. First talk to him/her about it and if they deny then maybe see a counselor if you think it is serious enough

gussnarp's avatar

Before you take @jackm‘s advice, what exactly is your relationship with this person? Is it really a good idea to stick your nose in their business?

w2pow2's avatar

Instead of going to a counselor, I came here. To get a diagnosis from highly-intelligent fluther persons.
Please someone make a diagnosis.
@gussnarp She’s my sister

w2pow2's avatar

Someone CANNOT GET STARTLED! That’s got to mean something, right? Maybe not related to the lack of sympathy but it’s got to mean something!

jackm's avatar

Well if shes your sister talk to your parents. If its anything i’m sure they have noticed. and would take it seriously if you noticed as well

Darwin's avatar

This person seems to show the same lack of sympathy. They don’t care if they harm anyone as long as it doesn’t affect them.

Sounds like she may be a sociopath. If she is quite bright she may never do anything that will really harm another as she won’t ever want to be sent to jail. Many CEOs of very large companies are sociopaths. It is helpful when you have to decide to lay people off or do something else “for the good of the company.”

I would only convince her to go to a counselor if this personality trait is causing problems for her or for others, especially if it hinders all areas of her life, social, family, and work.

As I said above, my son often has a flat affect. If you read the link you can see that this can be related to serious psychological illnesses. However, if it isn’t causing any problems, then there is no need for intervention.

gussnarp's avatar

I’m no expert, but I would certainly be concerned, and would not be surprised if the two were related.

w2pow2's avatar

I do appreciate the advice and concern but I didn’t really come here to get counseling- I came here to seek out medical opinions.
If you’ll allow me to repeat a cliche- IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?
@Darwin May God bless you and your children’s children!

Likeradar's avatar

@w2pow2 How old is your sister? Can you give examples of her lack of sympathy?

w2pow2's avatar

@Darwin What exactly does your son have?

w2pow2's avatar

@Likeradar I’d rather not. She just doesn’t care if anyone is emotionally or physically hurt.
She’s 15
Is anyone learn-ed on psychology? I want to focus more on the fact that she can’t be startled. Could be an important factor/ indicator.

Voila!

w2pow2's avatar

Is anyone learn-ed on psychology? I want to focus more on the fact that she can’t be startled. Could be an important factor/ indicator.

Likeradar's avatar

@w2pow2 See the edit button after you post? You can use that to combine your posts into one. Just a tip. :)

w2pow2's avatar

Didn’t really think that through before I edited my post….
Oh well I digress!
@Darwin Whats the name of the drug that gives your son a ‘flat zone’?

Darwin's avatar

@w2pow2 – My son is diagnosed as ADHD, ODD, and Early Onset Bipolar. He also has damage to the frontal and temporal lobes of his brain, and his P300 wave is delayed. When his Bipolar symptoms go out of control, when he goes into the depressive part of the cycle, he begins to hallucinate, which is when they give him the heavy doses of anti-psychotics and he cannot be startled.

The reason you aren’t getting a good answer about her inability to be startled is that psychiatrists do not consider that an important symptom, unlike the reverse, when someone startles too easily.

When someone startles very easily, they may be suffering on of these psychological disorders:

* Anxiety (type of Neurosis)
* Panic disorder
* Generalized anxiety disorder
* Acute stress disorder
* Post-traumatic stress disorder

However, when they can’t be startled it could be because their hearing is poor, or, as in my son’s case, their brain responds slowly to outside stimuli through their ears (their P300 wave is delayed). A delayed P300 wave has been associated statistically with having, or being related to someone with, schizophrenia. The P300 wave is also exceedingly delayed in those with dementia, and is also delayed in those with depression.

Most psychiatrists would be much more interested in her lack of emotion and lack of empathy.

dpworkin's avatar

Following are the diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder from the DSM IV TR:
1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

At least three of the above criteria must be met. Sociopathy is ego syntonic so they do not often present for treatment spontaneously – they are more often court-mandated patients. The startle reflex is a physiological, not a psychological phenomenon.

wundayatta's avatar

It is a mistake to come here to get a diagnosis. You can get opinions and impressions and experiences, but not a diagnosis. You have to go to a doctor to get a diagnosis. If you are worried, encourage your sister to see a doctor. Or get your parents to take her—that’s even better.

dpworkin's avatar

Thanks @daloon. The above was certainly not meant to be a diagnostic guide for this individual. Anyone who would diagnose any illness in this type of venue would be the least likely person to trust.

Darwin's avatar

You still haven’t said if this is causing any problems for her.

If it isn’t, then leave her alone.

MagsRags's avatar

A person who is always on guard and feels like they can’t relax is likely to be difficult to startle. As mentioned above, that can be caused by psychological problems, but it could also be that she is dealing with something in her personal life that has her feeling this way.

It could even be sibling issues to a certain extent. When I think back to adolescence, if I knew I could bug my brother with certain behavior, I’d bring it on, whenever I could without drawing the attention of our parents.

loser's avatar

There was a serial killer character on Law & Order who had those same symptoms. Of course, that’s just TV, so I don’t really know and I’m pretty guillable anyway.

w2pow2's avatar

@Darwin as hard as it is to believe, being a sociopath does cause problems for the person that is a sociopath. She’s digging herself into a hole that she can’t get out of. And even when I asked this question, I was and I continue to leave her alone.
Hell I went out of my way to leave her alone!
I forgot to mention that her father (She’s my half-sister) is completely psycho. So perhaps its a genetic thing.
And she has never been able to be startled.
I argue strongly that I can get a firm diagnosis on here. I believe that everything is scientific, everything can be diagnosed. Things don’t just happen without reason.

dpworkin's avatar

No ethical practitioner would diagnose a patient without seeing the patient, not would any ethical practitioner release the diagnosis to a step-sibling without signed permission of the patient or a court order. You cannot get any form of diagnosis on Fluther, except from a fraud or a quack.

YARNLADY's avatar

@pdworkin add or any other online source. only a doctor will be able to give a diagnosis

Darwin's avatar

@w2pow2 – When I asked if she was having problems, I meant is she unable to get along anywhere, at home, with friends, at work, and at school. If that is the case, then a psychiatric diagnosis is warranted. If she is only having problems in one or two areas of her life, then rather than a diagnosis she has unfortunate personality traits.

Another criterion is whether she is a danger to herself or others. That is the standard we use when deciding if my son needs to be hospitalized.

wundayatta's avatar

@w2pow2 The predisposition for mental illness is genetic. It is triggered, usually, by environmental events.

Does she acknowledge or even recognize that she is different? Have you ever talked to her about it in a non-judgmental way? Is her father diagnosed? Has he ever been treated? What does your mother think about it? If your sister wanted to see a doctor about it, would your parents help her do it?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

well, firstly, some people just don’t have that knee jerk reaction quality, I never did, don’t know why, I never jump when I’m surprised, real steady hands when my adrenaline is pumping, the whole 9 yards.

and secondly, have you ever thought that they were just a nihilist? to me it honestly sounds like you’re making mountains out of mole hills…

RedPowerLady's avatar

It is called a flat affect (not a mental disorder just a term for describing not reacting appropriately to a stimulus) and it can be a sign of a mental disorder, side-effect of pills, or just a sign of past trauma. Seeking therapy or a doctor’s advice would be recommended.

Also the flat affect does relate to lack of concern for others. Flat affect means you don’t respond in your face the way others would. The lack of response could translate to the lack of concern to others. It makes sense that it would be related.

cbloom8's avatar

Just personality and conditioning.

w2pow2's avatar

In your face you can’t-get-a-diagnosis-on-here persons! I got a whole lot of information from people who know more!

dpworkin's avatar

Trust them at great risk. You can get plenty of information, and lots of speculation but any diagnosis would be worthless.

MagsRags's avatar

Could be.. sometimes… maybe… usually… are not diagnoses. Each opinion or observation could be correct in a specific set of circumstances, but none of us have the complete picture, and it seems unlikely that you do either. see? more “could” and “seems”. There are a lot of smart people here,with good ideas, but none of us is qualified to make psychiatric diagnoses long distance. And the more qualified the person, probably the less likely to toss out a disease label.

It’s like that old folk tale about the group of blind men in India, each examining a different part of an elephant and each coming up with a completely different opinion on what the elephant looked like, each based on his own direct experience. Take it all with a lot of salt, even your own perceptions.

Darwin's avatar

Actually, most of those giving “diagnoses” (including myself) are suggesting that if something is indeed the case, then seeking out a psychiatrist to get a real diagnosis is a good idea. I don’t see anyone here stating an unequivocal diagnosis of this sibling who cannot be startled.

MagsRags's avatar

@Darwin I agree. Unfortunately, it seems the OP is tempted to connect a lot of dots to create a picture that fits their original perception.

It would be most interesting to hear the sister’s side of the story. Maybe it’s just the parent in me.

Darwin's avatar

@MagsRags – The OP seems to be fairly young, hence the attempt to connect the dots in unusual patterns. I, too, would like to hear both the sister’s side, and the parents’ observations.

w2pow2's avatar

“Connect a lot of dots to create a picture that fits their original perception.”
Yeah, I absolutely LOVE the fact that my sister could be a sociopath!
I’ve learned some valuable info about the flat effect. And since a psychiatrist Isn’t possible, and again I must stress ISN’T POSSIBLE, I’m left to at least attempt to figure it out all by me lonesome.
A lot of this information will definitely help, and to all of those who have contributed their opinions and ideas, I thank you.
Never understimate the power of Flutherites, my friends.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I do know someone that can’t be startled easy.I would describe that person as someone with alot of confidence and self control.They do have empathy for others.

BraveWarrior's avatar

I don’t think anyone else has suggested this but has she been tested for an Autism-spectrum disorder?

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