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Hypervigilance Symptoms

Being alert or cautious for threats is normal for anyone. But if you think you are being too alert all the time, then you may have developed hypervigilance. This article helps you understand the symptoms of this behavioral problem.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Hypervigilance, rather than being a condition in itself, is a symptom post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition is usually an outcome of some traumatic event in the past which is responsible for causing fear or horror of an intense degree in the affected person.
What is Hypervigilance?
A person with a hypervigilant behavior develops an excessively intense state of sensory sensitivity, which makes his/her mind on a constant, high alert for unknown threats.
How Do You Know You are Hypervigilant
The main symptom of hypervigilance is an increased state of anxiety that causes a person to be constantly on guard, and suspicious of incidents taking place in his/her surroundings. And this behavior triggers secondary symptoms.

» The increased level of anxiety, in turn, also triggers exhaustion, and abnormal reaction to loud sounds, unexpected noise, smells, and for obvious reasons to strangers.

» The constant attempt of the patient to look out for any threats, often causes him/her to remain aloof of his/her social circle of friends, and family.

» If such symptoms prolong or in other words, start taking a chronic form, then they disrupt the sleeping pattern of the patient significantly. As a result of which, the person may find it immensely difficult to sleep or staying asleep.

» One classic example of this condition could be a person who does not prefer standing near a fire-place in his/her house or elsewhere, suspecting that the fire may break out any time. In some cases, the person may even put out the fire because of the fear.
What Causes It?
According to medical experts, factors that may be linked with the condition include:
  • Certain traumatic episodes which the patient may have been through during early childhood
  • Hereditary psychiatric illness
  • One physical cause may be impaired regulation of the brain in response to any stressful situation
To add to these, certain aspects of the patient's personality could also contribute to the development of PTSD thus, the condition of hypervigilance.
How Can You Manage the Problem
» With the help of medicines prescribed by a doctor, and undergoing psychotherapy supervised by a professional, most people are able to manage their hypervigilance behavior. Medicines may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and hypertension drugs. It may take a while for the doctor and the patient to find a suitable drug that works well, and causes the least of side effects.

» More important than medication is psychotherapy. Given the fact that the therapy helps the therapist to work on a personal level with the patient, it is an important treatment method to deal with conditions such as hypervigilance. The process allows the therapist to help the patient realize his/her issue in a broader and transparent way.

» Depending upon the symptoms, there are various branches of psychotherapy that can be put to use for treating the disorder in adults and children. The sessions would consist of discussions between the therapist and the patient. It might include talks on all those factors or experiences in the patient's life, that make him/her feel unsecured and unsafe about his/her environment.

» The patient is also encouraged to develop rational thinking about himself/herself and his/her vicinity. For instance, let's consider the above example of the person avoiding a fire place. Now in the therapy, the therapist would help the patient realize that the odds of the fire breaking out by itself is close to nil, unless it is done so by some kind of action. So one of the important aspects of the therapy which helps in managing the symptoms of hypervigilance is to push the patient to identify unhealthy beliefs, and channel his/her cognitive abilities to build constructive and positive thoughts.
The treatment of hypervigilance may not be as easy as it seems in black and white. Doctor's recommendations have to be followed diligently, and equally important is to have the support of friends and family. As mentioned, if the condition is taken care of in its infant stage, then it can be kept from getting worse or probably irreversible.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.