HYPERVIGILANCE


Hypervigilance is a state of increased alertness. If you’re in a state of hypervigilance, you’re extremely sensitive to your surroundings. It can make you feel like you’re alert to any hidden dangers, whether from other people or the environment. Often, though, these dangers are not real.


Hypervigilance can be a symptom of mental health conditions, including:

These can all cause your brain and your body to constantly be on high alert. Hypervigilance can have a negative effect on your life. It can affect how you interact with and view others, or it may encourage paranoia.


Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms may resemble those of anxiety. These may include:

  • sweating

  • a fast heart rate

  • fast, shallow breathing

Over time, this constant state of alertness can cause fatigue and exhaustion.

Behavioural Symptoms

Behavioral symptoms include jumpy reflexes and fast, knee-jerk reactions to your environment. If you’re hypervigilant, you may overreact if you hear a loud bang or if you misunderstand a coworker’s statement as rude. These reactions may be violent or hostile in a perceived attempt to defend yourself.


Emotional Symptoms

The emotional symptoms of hypervigilance can be severe. These can include:

  • increased, severe anxiety

  • fear

  • panic

  • worrying that can become persistent

You may fear judgment from others, or you may judge others extremely harshly. This may develop into black-and-white thinking in which you find things either absolutely right or absolutely wrong. You can also become emotionally withdrawn. You may experience mood swings or outbursts of emotion.


Common triggers

There are some common triggers that can cause or contribute to episodes of hypervigilance. These include:

  • feeling trapped or claustrophobic

  • feeling abandoned

  • hearing loud noises (especially if they’re sudden or emotionally charged), which can include yelling, arguments, and sudden bangs

  • anticipating pain, fear, or judgment

  • feeling judged or unwelcome

  • feeling physical pain

  • feeling emotional distress

  • being reminded of past traumas

  • being around random, chaotic behaviors of others

Coping with Hypervigilance