Hypervigilance is a telling sign you’ve experienced trauma. It can mean you are on edge, can’t relax, are more easily startled, have a never-ending feeling of needing to be safe, your eyes are scanning for danger, and much more. Just like any symptom, it is a spectrum. Some of the behaviors don’t alter your day-to-day life at all, but others might stop you from engaging in activities or maintaining relationships.
Ways to recognize hypervigilance:
- Heightened Alertness: People experiencing hypervigilance tend to be extremely alert to their surroundings, constantly scanning for potential threats or dangers.
- Exaggerated Startle Response: Individuals may react strongly to sudden or unexpected stimuli, such as jumping, tensing up, or becoming overly anxious.
- Constant Scanning: You might notice them frequently looking around, as if they’re searching for potential threats from various angles.
- Tense Body Language: Hypervigilant individuals might display physical signs of tension, like clenched fists, tight muscles, or a rigid posture.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Due to their heightened state of awareness, focusing on tasks that require sustained attention might be difficult.
- Irritability: Hypervigilance can lead to increased irritability, as the constant state of alertness can be mentally and emotionally taxing.
- Sleep Disturbances: People might struggle with sleep, either having difficulty falling asleep or experiencing frequent awakenings throughout the night.
- Rapid Heartbeat and Breathing: Physiological signs like a rapid heart rate and rapid breathing can be present, especially during periods of increased anxiety.
- Sensitivity to Stimuli: Individuals might become more sensitive to sensory stimuli, such as noise, light, or touch, as they are hyper-aware of their environment.
- Excessive Worry: They may exhibit excessive worry about potential threats, even if those threats are unlikely or non-existent.
- Avoidance Behavior: Individuals might avoid situations, places, or people that they perceive as potentially dangerous.
- Flashbacks or Intrusive Thoughts: Individuals might experience flashbacks or intrusive thoughts related to the traumatic event.
It’s important to note that experiencing some of these signs occasionally doesn’t necessarily indicate hypervigilance. However, consistently displaying a cluster of these signs and its interference with daily functioning, are signs it might be a good idea to consult a mental health professional.
The good news is that EMDR and IFS therapies can break down the protector parts that are hindering your day to day life. These parts have helped you immensely, but you don’t need them to be so loud all the time. They can feel safety and peace.