What is Hypervigilance and What is its Treatment?

The hyperarousal symptom of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which relates one to constant tension and always “on guard”, causing exhaustion is called as Hypervigilance. Person affected with hypervigilance remains in a constant situation of doubt and threat and keeps on looking for potential threats that can harm him. It brings on random changes in the behavior of the person. He is found to keep himself aloof from everything and keeps a watch on the potential threat which he thinks might harm him.

What is Hypervigilance and What is its Treatment

It can even turn to paranoia at extreme levels and have similar symptoms of paranoia. Hypervigilance is usually followed by anxiety in an extreme level leading to exhaustion. Other symptoms of hypervigilance are:

  • Increased arousal in an abnormal manner.
  • A greater responsiveness to stimuli.
  • Continuous examination of the person in search of threats.

There is an everlasting search of the surroundings in the condition of hypervigilance. The person tends to study all the sounds he hear, people he meets, behavior he come across, smells or any other element which can cause him pain or he finds warning! He sets himself on a constant alert to ascertain any danger coming towards him. It is basically an obsessive pattern seen in people who find it difficult to interact with others and handle relationships.

Certain things can be helpful to minimize the severity of hypervigilance. These are exercise, breathing patterns and relaxation techniques. Regular exercise to burn the adrenaline and secret the good body hormones can also be a good option. The person may feel for some time devoid of the threats he is afraid of. Complete relaxation by yoga or meditation is also possible for an alternative technique. Breathing techniques of different patterns liking inhaling and exhaling can reduce the stress too. It reduces the level of anxiety and helps attaining better help.

What is the Difference Between Hypervigilance and Paranoia?

  1. Difference Between Hypervigilance and Paranoia Based on Definition

    Paranoia is the stage of mental sickness due to internal causes which brings variations in the brain balance and chemistry of a person in a small way.

    Whereas hypervigilance is a responsive syndrome to any external event which creates an injury. It could be an accident, any occurrence of violence, intrusion, or bullying.

  2. Difference Between Hypervigilance and Paranoia Based on Automatic Recovery Process

    Paranoia can be recovered through process of medication and counseling.

    Hypervigilance however is a slower process in terms of recovery and can get better only with care and compassion.

  3. Difference Between Hypervigilance and Paranoia Based on Awareness

    Paranoiac patients never find themselves as the victim of the disease and do not admit to feel paranoid. They are less aware and conscious about this.

    A hypervigilant person is on the other hand aware of his problems and conscious about his hypervigilance. Since he articulates with his fear every time, he is more aware of the problems he is going through due to this.

  4. Difference Between Hypervigilance and Paranoia Based on Treatment Provided

    Patients of Paranoia are found to respond to drugs during their treatment.

    Whereas in the case of hypervigilance patients, drugs may not be effective. It can worsen the situation even more. Family support is the best healing for a person suffering from hypervigilance.

  5. Difference Between Hypervigilance and Paranoia Based on Symptoms

    Paranoia brings other symptoms of mental sickness with it. It could be delusion, or any other form mental illness. It can be as serious as schizophrenia.

    Whereas a hypervigilant person is often stressed, tensed, worried and feared of unknown or potential threats. He even losses his self-worth and remains aloof from everyone.

  6. Difference Between Hypervigilance and Paranoia Based on Belief

    Paranoiac persons often are dependent on others and expect compassion from them and want them to be concerned about them.

    Whereas a hypervigilant person is often found to deny his improper behavior and held others responsible for his improper ways. He is not able to recognize what is wrong or right.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypervigilance

Below mentioned are the signs and symptoms of hypervigilance:

  • People with hypervigilance is threatened everywhere for unknown imaginative reasons. They are constantly feared of dangers which they think might come their way. They find difficulty in sleeping and stay awake just to remain conscious and safe. In order to guard themselves, they do not even sleep restfully and always break their rest.
  • Hypervigilance is the major symptom in Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is the most painful period which causes long term damage to the sufferer. Family compassion is much required in this stage to fight such problems. The sufferer finds everything dangerous around him and is constantly feared of harm.
  • Hypervigilance disorders in persons who have experienced severe trauma like rape, murder attempts or war may find the phase of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) more difficult.
  • Natural disasters also cause these symptoms in people. In fact 10 percent of the total affected population of any natural calamity is recorded to be suffering from these symptoms. They are always worried about securing themselves if anything like this again happens in future.
  • Hypervigilance can be severe for people if not taken complete care of. It can be intensive in people who have experienced attacks or plane accidents. They remain afraid of the possible attacks. If not in real, they keep on weaving certain things in their minds which may never occur in future also. They can be ferocious and carry weapons with them for self-defense. The fear of getting attacked again makes them prepared with weapons to face the troubles.
  • People who have seen car crashes or survived one have fear of getting in to cars again. The trauma is so intense in them that they keep on repeating the same story to everyone they meet. The images from the trauma never go out of their mind and they tend to see the same images again and again. Even they dream about the same happening in their sleeps and have restless nights.
  • Hypervigilance is not an easy syndrome to manage. The persons suffering from it tend to behave abnormally and even have wrong thoughts about themselves. After a war in a nation some of them might think themselves as soldiers or detectives and behave accordingly. If not treated in due time the disease could become terrible after a certain point of time.

What is the Treatment for Hypervigilance?

Hypervigilance is a syndrome where the patient is threatened of the environment and remains exhausted with his endless techniques to recognizing the threat. It cannot be termed as a disorder but can turn to one like the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an anxiety disorder gradually. The following observations will help the sufferer of hypervigilance come out of the obsession and aid him release himself from the trap of hypervigilance and gain a secured set of mind.

Hypervigilance does not Protect from Upcoming Danger

You can never protect yourself from a sudden danger or threat. Only thing you can do is to keep yourself alert. Imagining a danger and planning for it won’t help. There is no exact plan of a sudden attack where you might feel insecure. Every time you have to face the situation, find ways to come out of it. Imagining and panicking about an unknown problem can only create anxiousness with no ultimate benefit.

Mindfulness to Treat Hypervigilance

Plan to combat hypervigilance instead of becoming anxious. Treatment to hypervigilance syndrome could be techniques of mindfulness. Mindfulness allows the individual to experience a greater sense peace and relaxation. The mind becomes calm and away from worries. The sufferer will be found to behave gentle and neutral each time he faces an abnormal situation. This makes the person experience calmness and rationality. The exhaustion level will decrease gradually decrease. Mindfulness is no magic and cannot transform the person instantly. However a regular practice can bring an effective change in the person. Help of family, friends and colleagues is also important.

What Needs to be Done to Defeat Fear?

Set yourself to a self alert to recognize the seed of the problem in you. Sometimes we may find ourselves in a situation where we exaggerate the threat or a possible problem and over think about it. This could be the first step of falling victim to this disease. If you are getting confused or afraid of any upcoming situation or merely thinking it in future, then you should think over it immediately.

Living life with Ambiguity

If you find yourself in a situation like this you first check on your behavior. Do not get over controlled by your illusions and learn the situation you are in. Stop doubting anything or everything in life. Stay with your friends more and know from them about your behavior. They can tell you about the changes in your behavior if they notice. Talk to your family more about it. Self checking is however the best policy to be applied in this situation. No one, but you can notice behavioral changes in yourself.

You cannot anticipate the flow of your life. It has its own folds and own ways. You can only choose to flow with it and live the way life takes you through. Learn to accept the changes in life and prepare yourself for the worst seasons. As they say, life is not a bed of roses. We all have to be rational about life and lead it the way it comes to us.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 22, 2019

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