Having a dysregulated nervous system can make life harder than it has to be. A dysregulated (sometimes spelled: dis-regulated or unregulated) nervous system means your nervous system is out of alignment and not functioning properly. This occurs when the calming parasympathetic nervous system is overshadowed by the excitatory sympathetic nervous system, making it difficult for the body to enter a relaxed state. In everyday life, the nervous system can become temporarily dysregulated but then regulates itself again. When someone feels like they have a dysregulated nervous system, they generally mean that their nervous system struggles or fails to regulate itself again after stress. Keep reading as we dive into 6 telltale signs of a dysregulated nervous system.
1) Chronic Stress
One of the key indicators of a dysregulated nervous system is chronic stress. If you find yourself feeling stressed out or anxious on a regular basis, it’s possible that your nervous system is in a state of overdrive. This could be due to a number of factors, including past trauma, chronic pain, or ongoing life stressors.
Chronic stress can take a serious toll on your physical and emotional health. It can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions. Additionally, it can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and burnout.
2) Feeling On Edge
Another of the signs of a dysregulated nervous system is feeling constantly on edge, anxious, or jumpy (1). You may feel like you’re in a constant state of high alert, even when there’s no real danger present. This can manifest in physical symptoms like muscle tension, increased heart rate, and shallow breathing.
People with a dysregulated nervous system may be easily startled by loud noises or sudden movements, and they may find it difficult to calm down even when there’s no real threat. This can be exhausting and may make it difficult to engage in everyday activities.
3) Difficulty Sleeping
A dysregulated nervous system may cause difficulty sleeping (2) . This can manifest in various ways, such as struggling to fall asleep, waking up frequently during the night, or experiencing restless, disturbed sleep.
Sleep difficulties are often linked to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can make it challenging for your body to fully relax and enter into restorative sleep. When your nervous system is dysregulated, it can be harder to unwind from the stressors of the day and calm your mind and body enough to get quality sleep.
4) Difficulty Focusing
When the body and mind are in a constant state of stress or hyperarousal, it can be difficult to stay focused on tasks and stay present in the moment. This can impact your ability to work, study, or even socialize effectively. You may find yourself feeling scatter-brained, forgetful, or having trouble with decision-making. You may also experience brain fog, which is a feeling of mental fatigue or cloudiness that makes it hard to process information.
Struggling to focus is a common sign of a dysregulated nervous system, but it can be a symptom of a variety of health issues. If you are experiencing difficulty focusing, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare professional who can help you identify the root cause and provide appropriate treatment.
5) Mood Swings
If you find yourself experiencing sudden and extreme mood changes, it could be one of the signs of a dysregulated nervous system. Your nervous system controls your emotions, so if it’s out of balance, it can lead to a wide range of mood swings. Mood swings are not only a symptom of a dysregulated nervous system, but they are a clear indication that something is unbalanced. If you’re experiencing mood swings, it’s essential to take note of when they occur and what triggers them.
6) Digestive Issues
Our nervous system plays a crucial role in the function of our digestive system, as it helps regulate the secretion of digestive juices and the movement of food through the digestive tract (3). If your nervous system is dysregulated, it can disrupt the digestive process and lead to symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Additionally, stress can also cause a decrease in blood flow to the digestive system, further exacerbating digestive issues.
If you’re experiencing chronic digestive issues and have ruled out any underlying medical conditions, it’s worth considering if your nervous system could be playing a role. Pay attention to any patterns or triggers that may be contributing to your digestive issues, and consider implementing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to help calm your nervous system.
Potential Causes Of A Dysregulated Nervous System
Nervous system dysregulation is generally caused by chronic stress because it over-stimulates the sympathetic nervous system causing it to remain active at all times. However, depression, acute trauma, and sleep deprivation can also trigger the sympathetic nervous system to steal the spotlight and send the parasympathetic nervous system into hiding, making it so that the body doesn’t successfully relax.
Do You Have The Telltale Signs Of A Dysregulated Nervous System?
A dysregulated nervous system is characterized by feeling anxious, stressed, irritable, and on edge. While these feelings are normal when there is a stressor, a dysregulated nervous system is in a prolonged state of stress that persists even after the stressor has been removed. For example, if you experience digestive upset due to stress before an important interview but the symptoms remain after the interview and the mental stress has passed, it might be because of a dysregulated nervous system. Or if small irritations have a habit to cause large reactions and impact your day, then your nervous system may be in a state of stress. In cases like these, you may need to take control of your nervous system to help get it back to a regulated state.