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What Are the Treatments for an Overactive Autonomic Nervous System?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Depending on the severity of the disorder, a number of different treatment options are available for patients with an overactive autonomic nervous system. This condition can be caused by another disorder, such as alcoholism or diabetes, and when possible, treating those diseases can completely cure the problems in the autonomic nervous system. For cases that appear spontaneously, there is no cure, though there are lifestyle changes and medications that can help patients deal with the adverse effects of these disorders. The type of treatment used often depends on the severity of the symptoms.

In some cases, a patient may develop an overactive autonomic nervous system because he or she has another medical problem. Alcoholism has been known to disrupt the function of this system, and in such a case, the treatment would involve refraining from alcohol and allowing the body time to heal from the damage caused by too much drinking. Patients with diabetes can also experience problems with the autonomic nervous system, and though this disease cannot be cured, managing it well can eliminate many of the symptoms. Some types of viral infections can also cause autonomic nervous system disorders, which may go away on their own once the infection has been suppressed.

In many cases, however, it is not possible to cure an overactive autonomic nervous system. Patients with certain genetic disorders; degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's disease; or injuries that have damaged the parts of the brain that control the autonomic nervous system may have to manage this disorder for their entire lives. In mild cases that affect the patient only intermittently or that raise the blood pressure and heart rate only slightly, a patient may be able to manage the symptoms with stress reduction techniques. A proper diet, a high level of physical fitness, and a positive outlook on life can all help calm the patient and depress the flow of adrenaline that causes the system to overreact. Deep breathing and meditation are also helpful, especially when a patient is suffering from an attack.

More severe cases may require the use of medication or other medical intervention. Some medications can be used to lower the blood pressure and heart rate while others may help a patient feel less anxious. Surgical procedures that allow the heart to beat normally may also be available to patients with severe problems that affect the rhythm of the heart.

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Discussion Comments

By anon949085 — On May 03, 2014

Overactive (hyper) sympathetic nervous system is due to trauma. Your nervous system is constantly 'stuck' in the fight or flight mode (sympathetic dominant). It's not something that can be cured simply with yoga or breathing.

By anon348402 — On Sep 16, 2013

@anon326881: Stop trying to sell sugar pills to people who have real medical conditions.

By anon326881 — On Mar 24, 2013

Simvita by Rubimed will calm down an overactive SNS.

By ysmina — On Feb 10, 2012

Except for situations where there is an underlying illness-- like thyroid or adrenal disease, alcoholism, etc.-- I think the best way to deal with this condition is through therapy techniques.

From my own experience, I've seen that the physical reactions I experience from this condition are always linked to my thoughts. So it's a psychological phenomenon for me. I sought many different techniques over the years and I found therapy, yoga and meditation to be the most beneficial.

If you can change your thought processes, you can also beat this condition.

By ddljohn — On Feb 09, 2012

@fify-- That's interesting. But I'm a little confused now, is an overactive autonomic nervous system and anxiety the same thing then? Or is anxiety just a symptom of it?

I was diagnosed with overactive autonomic nervous system last year. But thankfully, the cause of it was also found right away when my blood tests showed high TSH levels. High TSH hormone indicates that the thyroid gland is not working as much as it should.

This was why my autonomic nervous system went out of balance. I was put on thyroid hormones and everything went back to normal in a short period of time.

If anyone suspects having this or has been diagnosed with it, make sure to get your thyroid functions checked out.

By fify — On Feb 09, 2012

I think anxiety is one of the main symptoms of an overactive autonomic nervous system right?

I'm sure this would not be sufficient as a treatment alone, but medications for anxiety can probably help ease the symptoms to a great degree.

I don't have an overactive autonomic nervous system (not as far as I know anyway) but I have had anxiety for many years. Some of the symptoms sound very similar- especially the flight or fight response, racing heart, cold hands, sweating and difficulty breathing.

Anti-anxiety medications have helped me a lot with these symptoms so I think that they could be beneficial to someone who has OANS as well.

By Oceana — On Feb 08, 2012

I have an uncle who is a recovering alcoholic, and his nervous system has been damaged by his habit. He is quite a mess right now, and I hope that his body will one day be able to repair itself fully.

He shakes constantly. It is unsettling to watch him try to hold a cup of coffee or pass me a piece of paper. His hands and arms quake as badly as they would if he had Parkinson's.

Basically, he feels like his nerves have been fried. He told me that every time the phone rings, he feels an electric shock course through his body, and he is super nervous for a long time afterward. The same thing happens when someone honks a car horn outside.

By seag47 — On Feb 08, 2012

I suffer from social anxiety disorder, and my nervous system kicks into high gear when I am placed in uncomfortable situations. I don't do well around people, and I shake and sweat when exposed to large crowds.

I would definitely say that it feels like I'm having an adrenaline rush, and that rush is enabling me to run away quickly from what my mind perceives as a threat. I have this feeling at parties and when surrounded by groups of acquaintances.

Having such frequent adrenaline rushes takes a toll on your body. I jump at the slightest unexpected sound, and my hands shake all the time, even when I am alone.

I tried taking medication for this, but it made me have heart palpitations. That gave me even more fear, so I had to stop taking it.

By wavy58 — On Feb 08, 2012

@Perdido – I had an abnormal heart rhythm for years, and like you, I think mine was brought on by extreme stress. My boyfriend went to jail, and this placed immeasurable distress upon my mind and body.

Sometimes, my heart would skip beats. At other times, it would beat twice in rapid succession, and I would exhale quickly, as though the breath had been knocked out of me.

When I got out of this bad situation, mentally and physically, my health began to improve. I really do believe that I was in danger of having a heart attack during that time.

By Perdido — On Feb 07, 2012

I have always been a pretty nervous person, but my nerves escalated after I enrolled in college. Suddenly, I was responsible for everything on my own, and the shock of it threw me a bit.

I started having panic attacks. I felt like the room was closing in on me, and I hyperventilated. It was a scary feeling, and it was the most intense type of nervous reaction I have ever had.

I knew that my outlook on things was causing the problem. I started meditating, doing yoga, and focusing on deep breathing. All of this helped me overcome my nerves and return my heart rate to a normal pace.

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