Hypervigilance is a state of increased vigilance, anxiety, and sensitivity to environmental stimuli. The affected individuals are always scanning the environment for any potential threats. It is one of the hyperarousal symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Such a behavior is sometimes mistaken for paranoia. However, a hypervigilant person is aware of his/her symptoms, unlike a paranoid person, who is generally unaware of his/her paranoia, and will never admit it. Hypervigilant people are so aware of their fears and hypersensitivity, that they may in fact tend to think of themselves as paranoid.
Such heightened sensitivity is mostly observed in individuals with PTSD, and is generally the outcome of traumatic event(s) like sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, man-made or natural disasters, accidents, bullying, intrusion, violation, etc.
It may also be a result of constant exposure to dangerous environments. For example, those living in an unsafe neighborhood, serving in the military, etc. are more likely to develop this state of constant awareness and fear.
These individuals constantly scrutinize their environment for possible threats. They tend to be so involved in their scrutiny, that they tend to ignore their family and friends. They overreact to loud sounds and bangs, unexpected noises, smells, etc. A few may get really agitated and irritated, when they move into a crowded or noisy area.
They tend to stay awake for days on end, as their over-aroused senses does not allow them to take a nap. They might scream or grab their partner's hand when they encounter a factor that triggers their trauma. This is often seen in case of traumatic car accidents, when the person becomes fearful of riding in the passenger seat.
In addition, such individuals tend to have low self-worth. They may develop behavioral changes. For example, an outgoing and friendly person who has developed hypervigilance, when invited to a party, will tend to sit in corner, alone. They know their extra-cautious nature is far-fetched, and may even tend to think of themselves as being paranoid.
The treatment for this condition requires a lot of self-control, and conscious efforts by the affected individuals themselves. They need to identify things or incidences that provoke anxiety, and shift their focus away from such anxiety cues.
With time and self-awareness about the condition, the severity of the symptoms will lessen. Antidepressants should be avoided, as they may induce suicidal tendencies in such individuals.
It is essential to consult a qualified therapist, since he/she can help to manage the symptoms, and mold the behavior in certain situations. The key lies in learning to cope with the troublesome feelings and intrusive memories. Sharing the feelings with family members and loved ones, and seeking their support will help to overcome the condition.
For individuals suffering from PTSD hypervigilance and anxiety, it is important to seek medical intervention, and control the symptoms. Although it is difficult to overcome this condition, learning to control the fears will help to control the symptoms.
Disclaimer: The mentioned particulars are for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.