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Hypervigilance – What It Means and How to Cope With It?

Hypervigilance – What It Means and How to Cope With It?

Updated on May 16, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

Hypervigilance - Meaning, Symptoms, Triggers, Causes & So Much More

Key Takeaways

  • Hypervigilance is an aroused state of mental alertness to potential dangers that are perceived as threats.
  • A hyper-vigilant person is excessively cautious and careful.
  • They stay in an alert mode and are always fearful and feel unsafe.
  • Hypervigilance is a state that leads to oversensitive responses to one’s surroundings.
  • It results from traumatic experiences and is found in people who have survived emotional abuse or maltreatment.
  • Treatment for hypervigilance focuses on emotional self-regulation and coping with life stress.

Human evolution has proved that we are wired to become alert and circumspect if we sense danger around us. This is a normal response to a threat. 

But if this cautiousness becomes a regular overdo, then we can refer to this heightened sensitive and alert state as hypervigilance.

In his overly watchful state, the person shows exaggerated responses to perceived threats. They will show extreme nervousness and stay fearful all the time. 

The condition can keep you on your toes and you may be found to inspect each and everything around you. You will always keep your guards on, lest something around is waiting to harm you.

Being too vigilant can turn sour and bitter at times. It affects your mental and emotional health directly. So, let’s learn more about this over-sensitive and disturbing emotional state.

Read On…

Hypervigilance – definition, and meaning

Hypervigilance refers to an overly aroused state of mental alertness and caution. The hypersensitive person always looks out for potential threats, if any. They behave like a worrywart and suffer from irrational fear and insecurity.

Hypervigilance is an aroused emotional response that is triggered by some perceived threats.

This condition is mostly connected with anxiety disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorders, or schizophrenia.

Hypervigilance includes the body’s excessive and unnatural response to perceived threats. The person always finds out ways to escape dangerous situations. 

They navigate situations and also try to overanalyze the intentions of people around them.

If you are a hypervigilant person, you’ll remain excessively sensitive toward your immediate environment. 

You’ll do a thorough scanning and checking of the people and things around you. You may hunt for specific cues that may hint at a potential threat. 

Hypervigilance leads to inappropriate emotional responses to situations that are not really harmful.

Most of the time, the perceived fear is caused by inner worries and insecurities. Hypervigilance calls for an increased anxious state that is exhausting and tiring for the person. 

It brings abnormal arousal that puts the body in a state of alarm.

A hypervigilant person reacts more and responds less. The constant scanning of the surroundings puts them in a state of care and caution. 

They start showing weird responses that are intense and not relevant to the situation.

As the person constantly anticipates harm, danger, or an impending threat, this condition leads to heightened sensory responses.

They are always quick to identify what’s going wrong in their surroundings.

The psychology behind hypervigilance

People who remain in a state of hypervigilance are ready to find out hidden dangers. They may fear experiencing the traumatic events all over again in their life. 

Sometimes, they may anticipate that someone is trying to harm them in some way, or they may get cheated in a relationship, etc.

This excessive caution and alert mode make these people behave in awkward ways. They suffer from anticipatory anxiety that danger is always present somewhere nearby.

This vigilant alert state is a direct function of brain arousal. Their nerves are always agile and active, as if ready to spot all the harms and threats lurking around. 

Hypervigilance does not operate in situations of real threat. Rather the person perceives a situation as threatening based on assumptions and no reality. 

They tend to overanalyze the situation as fearful and dangerous and their brain starts to overreact much more than what is needed.

The hypervigilant person is much more than just being cautious. They scan each and everything that they come across to a point of obsession. 

Sometimes this behavior also leads to panic attacks and hampers the person’s ability to function normally in everyday situations.

Their tendency to overreact leads to interpersonal conflicts. At the same time, problem-solving ability and decision-making become shaky and unpredictable. 

The person appears tense, emotionally hyperactive, and cannot self-regulate their negative feelings.

Hypervigilance never allows them to sit still, or remain patient in a particular place. 

Sometimes, the person appears unmindful in social situations because they are constantly scanning for hidden threats around them.

This condition is mentally upsetting and wearying.

Hypervigilance symptoms

The first sign of hypervigilance is the active mode ‘on’ of the person. The person appears ready to react and spot the potential threats around him/her. 

Their active and agile senses are in the process of scanning everything going around. These people put a lot of effort to keep themselves safe even in totally safe environments.

Hypervigilance has many physical and behavioral manifestations. However, the intensity of the symptoms may vary from one person to another. 

Usually, people do not show many physical signs, apart from a few whose sensory arousals and alertness give rise to physiological responses.

Physical symptoms

Some of the physical symptoms of hypervigilance are as follows:

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweaty palms and feet
  • Trembling
  • Inability to speak clearly
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Inability to breathe comfortably
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling sick and exhausted 
  • Unsteady gait
  • Poor appetite
  • Pupils are dilated and eyes are constantly moving to seek out new dangers

Emotional symptoms / psychological symptoms

Some of the emotional symptoms include:

  • Panic and anxiety attacks
  • Irrational fears that lack reasoning
  • Mood swings
  • Emotional agitation and restlessness
  • Anger
  • Jumpy and always on a moving attitude
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Fearing that something dreadful is going to happen soon
  • Overreaction
  • Sudden emotional outbursts
  • Misperception and misinterpretation of environmental cues
  • Feeling unsafe and insecure all the time

Behavioral manifestations of hypervigilance

As already referred to, hypervigilance is a physiological adjustment to a stressful situation by causing a stake of fight or flight. 

The person becomes hyper-aroused to certain environmental stimuli and starts feeling unsafe and fearful. 

It’s your brain that tries to keep you safe in trying times. Hypervigilance operates in two ways. 

Either you are scared of an anticipated threat that could harm you, or you remember the past trauma of a negative experience that must have harmed you.

Certain typical behavior patterns as shown by a hypervigilant person are:

  • You’re too aware of your surroundings
  • Always on your toes as if ready to act and remove the threat whenever needed
  • Intense fear that made you a worrywart
  • Constant negative thoughts about what’s coming next
  • Anticipating harm even if it’s nowhere present
  • Scanning rooms, or any other place for potential harm looming on you
  • You resist visiting unknown places or meeting new people
  • Constant feelings of suspicion and insecurity
  • You will always put on safety guards to help you dissipate the harm
  • Poor conversation skills
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Lack of patience
  • You’re never present in your moments
  • Always take comments of others personally
  • You get busy understanding people’s tone of voice
  • Friction and lack of adjustment in relationships
  • Tries to avoid social situations with many people, just to avoid the risk of harm

Hypervigilance is not a standalone medical condition. It is a symptom as well as an aftermath of many other psychiatric illnesses. These illnesses are anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, acute stress disorder, etc.

Hypervigilance and anxiety

Hypervigilance and anxiety disorders are closely connected with each other. Research studies have found that people who are anxious and fearful always look for threats, even if there is none.

This results in scanning and navigating the surroundings closely. 

If you’re too anxious, it will create an anxiety loop or spiral. It means your alert mode will always stay on, trying to find out the next harm that may happen. 

You will selectively attend only to cues that seem harmful, thus reinforcing more anxiety to occur.

Your visual scanning tendency and dilated pupils suggest an irritable and worried mindset. The loop of anxiety goes bigger and greater with each passing day. 

You will not be able to break the loop and come out of it.

People with social anxiety disorders and specific phobias also suffer from hypervigilance.

They are doubtful, apprehensive, and insecure about their surroundings. They never trust others with clear intent. 

Social anxiety disorder and hypervigilance are also interrelated. You will always remain hypervigilant in front of others. 

People suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) also show hypervigilance. They overanalyze a situation as harmful as it really is.

A controversy that operates is whether anxiety disorders lead to hypervigilance or it’s the other way round. Research studies have shown that both are correct. 

One condition reinforces the other in positive ways. Sometimes, hypervigilance is a symptom and cause of anxiety disorder.

While in some cases, too much anxiousness can also strengthen hypervigilance.

Hypervigilance and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder leads to hypervigilance. The person remembers the previous trauma and puts on his/her guard in all unknown situations. 

This is a way to safeguard oneself from harm and abuse. But, if this behavior becomes a regular pattern, it turns unhealthy in no time.

Hypervigilance operates intensely in trauma patients because they do not want to relive their scary past.

Thus, they become more alert and vigilant while meeting new people or going to unknown places. 

If you’re a trauma survivor, your brain is wired to anticipate threats even in safe surroundings. It makes you overly alert and suspicious. 

This happens because the residues of past trauma and the horror connected with it are still fresh in your mind.

You have not yet overcome the trauma and will try to put your guards on so that no one can do any further damage to you. PTSD leads to constant scanning of the surroundings. 

You will mistrust people and can never connect with others at a deeper level of emotional connections.

There will be a conflict between reaction and response. Your hypervigilance tendencies will lead to over-reaction and intense sensitivity.

You will act impulsively and aggressively. 

Symptoms of hypervigilance seen in trauma patients

Individual experiences aroused symptoms of hypervigilance such as the following ones:

  • Irritable mood
  • Feeling frustrated and angry
  • Reckless and self-destructive behavior
  • Constantly checking with others so as to stay safe and sound
  • Needless anxiousness
  • Not present in the moments
  • Low attention span and frequent distractions
  • Poor memory of the present events
  • Thoughts of past trauma that strengthen hypervigilance

Several pieces of research studies have shown that hypervigilance begins after trauma and never goes off unless treated. 

Hypervigilance and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

Research findings suggest that hypervigilance is an associated symptom of OCD. People with Obsessive-compulsive disorder show hypervigilant tendencies. 

Likewise, hypervigilance can also lead to various obsessive behaviors. These people are obsessed to remain safe, and remove all sorts of threats from their life.

They also tend to engage in several compulsive behaviors such as scanning the entire place, checking and observing whether things are fine all around. 

Slowly, the hypervigilance reinforces the obsessions further and the end is nowhere to be seen.

Hypervigilance and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental health problem marked by distorted thoughts and hallucinations.

The connection between hypervigilance and schizophrenia is influenced by another condition known as paranoia.

Paranoia is a kind of delusion or thought disorder that is marked by excessive anxiety. 

The patient believes that they are being harmed, maltreated by someone, or others are trying to carve out a conspiracy against them. 

This distorted thinking leads to an aroused state where the patient becomes extra cautious and alert. They may see every other person with suspicion. 

The patient reacts with hyperactivity and stays in an aroused emotional state. They also show distrust of others and suffer from fear of being harmed and abused in some way.

Triggers of Hypervigilance

Emotional hypervigilance is an overwhelming state that is irksome for the sufferer. It triggers an immediate sense of alarm, arousal, and fight response. 

Some of its immediate triggers could be like this:

  • Slight changes in someone’s behavior can set an alarm in you
  • You will immediately doubt someone’s intention if you find them asking personal questions
  • Looking for escape doors wherever you go, so that you may not get stuck in some form of problem
  • Unexpected sounds may startle you and put you on the edge. You will get busy finding more cues related to it
  • Hypervigilance can be triggered by traumatic life experiences
  • Agoraphobia
  • Claustrophobia
  • Any unknown person or uncertain social situation can trigger hypervigilance symptoms
  • Feeling judged or evaluated by others
  • Reminders of past abuse and trauma
  • Feeling unwelcome in a social situation can trigger hypervigilance. The person starts to critically evaluate the intentions of others

The causes of hypervigilance

If you’re constantly trying to put on your guards, you could be showing signs of hypervigilance.

You will constantly assess and evaluate potential dangers that are mostly non-threatening. 

The causes of hypervigilance mainly relate to past trauma or negative life experiences that have forced you to mistrust others. 

Sometimes, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and other mental health conditions may also lead to hypervigilance.

1. Trauma and negative life experiences

If you are a trauma survivor, you will show signs of hypervigilance. Your elevated sense of alertness will follow you wherever you go. 

This is because the past traumatic situation was scary and left you with deep wounds yet to be healed.

You’re anxious, fearful, and broken deep within. Thus, you are extra cautious, maybe to a point of obsession. You cannot afford to have any further harm done to yourself.

Traumatic life experiences can be of various types. Some of them are as follows:

  • Experiencing sexual violence or physical abuse
  • Living in a dangerous situation such as getting stuck in a lift or seeing a snake with no immediate escape
  • Serious injury due to an accident
  • Seeing someone else getting hurt or dying in a dangerous situation
  • Incidents of domestic violence
  • Living through many traumatic experiences at a time, such as the death of family members, job loss, breakups, etc.

Other negative life experiences such as witnessing parental fights can lead to jumpy and jittery kids. They are fearful of loud noises coming from other adults as well. 

Another example could be verbal bullying which makes the child always alert and watchful when they’re with unknown people. 

They may try to isolate themselves with the fear of being bullied again. These children may always hunt for cues that suggest whether others are trying to evaluate them in any way.

2. Mental health disorders

As already discussed in the previous section, there are several mental health conditions that can lead to hypervigilance. 

The overreaction to a stimulus that stems from hypervigilance is actually related to PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), generalized anxiety, phobias, and schizophrenia.

3. The theory of forward feedback loop 

This concept relates to hypervigilance and anxiety disorders. Both are woven into each other.

Each of these conditions creates a negative loop of stress and overwhelming emotions that affect mental health. 

When you’re anxious, you’ll be extra careful so as to minimize your stress. It means you will be showing hypervigilance symptoms. 

Maybe, you’ll start seeing normal situations as threatening. Your instant reaction would be to either fight out the stress or flee away from the situation. Once you do this, you are relieved.

When these negative reactions become a regular behavior pattern, you will tend to misinterpret all situations as harmful. This again reinforces and fuels more hypervigilance.

4. The perception of threat

Our brain receives a lot of information every second through the sense organs. But is it possible to attend to all this information at a time and stay aware of them? No.

In such a situation, we selectively process only the information that is necessary, and others just get faded.

We tend to attend to and remember harmful situations, trauma, and negative experiences more than others.

Any message that is perceived as dangerous will put the brain in alert mode.

You will attend more often to these threats closely, even if it doesn’t impact you directly. This creates a sense of being extra alert and watchful.

People who have faced pain and suffering will always be more vigilant than others who never had any such experience. 

Their attention bias will make them attend to loud sounds, large crowds, or any other situations that are perceived as harmful.

Any sensory inputs that appear frightening can make a person hypervigilant.

Hypervigilance in relationships

Hypervigilance in the relationship looks like someone is trying to watch your each and every move. There is a watchdog who is trying to know your whereabouts. 

Sometimes, hypervigilance is a symbol of unhealthy relationships. Your partner may question and cross-check you at every moment.

Hypervigilance in the relationship is extremely stressful. You will always be put down.

Your hypervigilant partner is insecure and fearful. They will always subconsciously anticipate harm in the relationship. 

Feelings of suspicion, mistrust, and conflict are common features of the relationship.

Hypervigilant partners are hard to live with because the relationship feels like a ‘confined and stuck’ place without breathing space.

Typical signs of hypervigilance in relationships

How would you know that hypervigilance is taking shape in your relationship? Some of the telltale signs are as follows:

  • Questioning your every move
  • Lack of trust and mutual respect
  • Unsolicited advice that is meant to humiliate you
  • Constant checking
  • Scanning phones for some personal details
  • Overreaction in hostile ways
  • Lack of healthy interpersonal communication
  • Excessive worries about the future of the relationship

Examples of Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is mentally draining. You may feel trapped in alertness and will never be able to come out of it.

This mental health issue can make safe environments look dangerous. You are not at peace at all.

The constant scanning behavior, and staring at someone just to understand their facial expressions are all examples of hypervigilance. 

We can highlight some real-life examples of hypervigilance here. Can you relate yourself to any one or more of these situations?

  • A student interprets low marks given to him/her as a personal attack by the teacher.
  • Survivors of war may look for a hideout when they hear a sudden alarm or a siren.
  • A gender dysphoria person will be super cautious walking through a place where chances of humiliation and insult are high.
  • The survivors of domestic violence will never trust unknown people.
  • Sexual violence may make someone judge the intentions of their spouse.
  • A person who survived a road accident will always be scared to drive alone on the highway.
  • Someone with the childhood trauma of punishment will not be able to feel confident in the workplace.
  • Being fallen from a staircase and met with injuries can stop someone from using the staircase. They will always accompany someone if they need to do so.

When is hypervigilance good for you and when it’s not? (Impact of hypervigilance)

Hypervigilance is both good and bad. It depends on the intensity of the condition and the situation the person is in. 

Sometimes hypervigilance is needed. If you have ever met a snake in the dark storeroom, then next time, you should be more alert and cautious while entering the room. 

This vigilance is needed to keep you safe from some real harm that might happen.

Hypervigilance is a natural response that safeguards you from harm. It alerts you of some real threat. But, if you always keep your alert mode on, you may suffer from anxiety and suffer a lot. 

In most cases, people who are highly reactive and stay alert all the time suffer from a lack of inner peace. Their jumpy and restless mindset always anticipates harm that is not there in reality. 

If the balance gets disrupted, it can turn really bad and bring back symptoms of trauma and anxiety. It means you’re back to the same place where you had started.

It helps in several situations such as:

  • Walking alone on a lonely road
  • When no one is at home and you hear a sound
  • Driving alone on a stormy night where the road ahead is hazy
  • Talking to an absolute stranger
  • Getting into an elevator where you have once seen a snake
  • To trust a friend when you know he/she is not faithful
  • When you’re asked to take care of babies
  • Traveling alone to an unknown place
  • If you’re ever duped over internet money transactions

When hypervigilance appears too much of a thing

Hypervigilance is harmful and needs to be avoided if it becomes too much and the person feels obsessed about it. Some of the negative effects of hypervigilance are as follows:

  • Lack of interest in doing things that you once enjoyed
  • You’re always on the edge, anticipating harm that is baseless
  • Phobic responses that are irrational
  • Avoidance of people and situation that feels dangerous
  • Overburdened with perceived fears lurking all around you
  • Lack of happiness and peace of mind
  • Always jumpy and irritable
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Flashback memories of trauma in situations that look similar
  • This heightened alert feeling is emotionally toxic and physically tiring

Hypervigilance test

People suffering from hypervigilance are prone to react instantly. Most often, they show intense feelings that are not proper in a situation.

Hypervigilance is not a disorder but it is the cause and effect of many other mental illnesses.

Your clinician will try to evaluate your overall symptoms to understand the roots of hypervigilance.

In order to diagnose the condition, you’ll be asked to undergo certain physical examinations and mental health tests. 

Your doctor may suggest a few blood tests and imaging screening along with self-report psychological tests.

The reports of these tests are used by the doctor to identify the core reason for your alert and active mindset.

The evaluations will include the following:

  • Measuring the physical vitals such as blood pressure, heart rate, and blood glucose levels
  • Thyroid tests and electrolytes monitoring
  • Psychiatric consultation
  • Family history checks
  • A brain MRI ( Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT scan ( Computerized Tomography) can be used to evaluate brain changes that symbolize an overly alert state
  • Psychological tests to understand the pattern of overreaction
  • Your doctor may also suggest toxicology screening to understand the complications of hypervigilance.

For trauma survivors, a psychological test is used to understand the residual symptoms of PTSD, and hypervigilance is one of them. 

This test is known as the Brief Hypervigilance Scale. This scale has 5-point measurement categories for hypervigilance.

Hypervigilance vs. paranoia

Hypervigilance is a scary state of existence. It leads to over-checking behaviors that are not needed in every situation. 

We can describe paranoia as a type of delusional thoughts that always keep the person watchful and mistrust the intentions of others. 

At times, these two mental states appear same or interrelated to each other. But, in reality, hypervigilance is not the same as paranoia. There are some finer aspects that set them apart.

Hypervigilance comes from an excessive need to guard oneself against harm.It stems from false beliefs and distorted ideas that others are trying to harm the person in some ways.
No fixed beliefs just staying in a high alert mode.Fixed ideas that are hard to break. It is a delusional disorder that leads to mistrust of others.
Guarding one against past hurts. Anticipates harm now and in the future based on past experiences.Paranoia arises from fear of being harmed now, in the present moment.
In hypervigilance, the person struggles to be in a relaxed state. They are aware that their perceived thoughts are not relevant, yet they can’t stop being in an alert state.The person lacks awareness that their thoughts are untrue. Their delusions are real to them.
Hypervigilance vs. Paranoia

Treatment of Hypervigilance

The usual treatment methods for hypervigilance focus on managing symptoms of hyperarousal.

Usually, medication is not the first line of treatment if the intensity of the condition is manageable.

But, if hypervigilance is due to delusions or schizophrenia, medications can be given along with psychotherapy. It means the treatment options will vary according to the triggers and causes of the condition.

Your condition will be medically reviewed to understand the diagnosis and treatment plans to be followed. The healthcare professional sets a treatment plan that is tailor-made to fit your case. 

Most often, the common therapies used to treat hypervigilance are as follows:

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on altering faulty thoughts and replacing them with healthy ones. For trauma survivors, CBT helps a lot to manage their symptoms of overreaction and impulsivity.

CBT teaches them to monitor their negative thoughts, try to replace them with rational ones, and lastly manage the emotions that come out of them. 

Thus, the treatment looks into an overall alteration of mind states along with emotional self-regulation.

If you’re suffering from hypervigilant tendencies, your doctor will help you to challenge and remove unhealthy thinking. 

You will get to process the negative emotions in the light of new reasons and evaluations.

This method is highly useful to treat hypervigilance if it stems from an anxiety disorder or excessive stress. 

In CBT, the therapist clarifies to the patient about their condition. Thus, you will be aware of what’s going wrong within you.

Psychoeducation helps to build awareness and overcome heightened emotions easily.

2. Exposure therapy

This method is an offshoot of CBT. Here, the person is exposed to less intense traumatic situations slowly and gradually. 

Their responses are recorded and feedback is given. This method works well with trauma survivors.

They are allowed to remember past hurts and wounds. This leads to letting go of past issues and working through an emotional cleansing process. 

Exposure therapy coupled with systematic desensitization helps to challenge and uncover those negative emotions that lead to hypervigilance.

The patient works closely with the therapist who teaches the right coping skills needed for managing the symptoms. 

This therapy is given in safe settings where patients are told to relive their trauma in whatever way they want to. 

They are guided by the therapist to stay calm and address the negative emotions that surface in the process of healing.

3. Medications

Sometimes medication is given to control the excessive anxiety symptoms that arise out of hypervigilance. 

Anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants are used to decrease hyperarousal. It keeps the mind in a relaxed state so that the constant scanning tendencies can be reduced. 

When hypervigilance is an effect of schizophrenia, medication is a must. The drugs are used to reduce distorted thought patterns, otherwise, hypervigilance can’t be controlled.

Medications should always be taken according to the prescribed guidelines of your doctor. The dosage and duration of intake should be followed strictly to avail of maximum benefits.

Coping with Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is emotionally taxing. Thus coping is necessary to stay poised and deal with real-life situations in a healthy way. 

Coping helps to restore optimum levels of functioning in threatening situations, even if it’s a perceived one.

Managing hypervigilance needs some best coping skills. Some of the best coping practices are as follows:

1. Get closure and let go of past hurts

Closure means getting out of the negative spiral of thoughts that still triggers trauma responses.

It gives you a chance to heal and forget the past toxic elements that still feel overwhelming.

To stop your hypervigilant tendencies, you need to learn the art of emotional healing. This process facilitates closure. 

You’ll be able to get over the unfinished business that irks you every now and then. Your therapist may work with you to attain complete closure.

You will be able to put your regrets, anger, and resentments to rest. Maybe, a new purpose in life is waiting around the corner for you to start a new journey in life. 

2. Know what triggers your hypervigilance

When you know what exactly is causing the hypervigilance, you’ll be able to cope with it in a better way. Thus, it is important to know the triggers of the condition.

Sometimes, the past trauma is so deep-seated that it gets hard to overcome them. You may need the help of a therapist to uncover those wounds and wipe them completely from your life. 

As said, healing takes time, and so is hypervigilance.

Nothing will turn out positive in a day or two. You need to get hold of your negative emotions so that it doesn’t get the chance to get high and put you on an alert mode.

3. Stop the negative spiral of thoughts and emotions by positive self-talk

Hypervigilance starts with fear and ends in fear. It means you’re never at peace with yourself. The constant scanning tendencies reinforce negative feelings and the loop of fear never breaks off on its own.

You may find yourself thinking about some worst-case scenarios that might not ever take place. All these issues can be controlled by positive self-talk. 

Speak to yourself in kind words and stop judging yourself for anything that went wrong.

Positive self-talk is important. It makes you a worthy being. Your broken self-esteem will receive an instant boost. 

You can even write journal notes to reflect on the disturbing emotions that you might be having at the present moment.

All these regulate emotional responses in a healthy way and you can give some rest to your overwhelmed brain and fearful heart.

4. Breathing exercises / Meditation

Another way to cope with hypervigilance is by following a regular exercise regime. It should include relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and yoga. 

Being mindful of your body mechanisms, you can actually stop the arousal tendencies of the brain. Your restless mind will calm down and you’ll feel controlled in and out.

5. Other coping strategies

Some of the other coping skills include the following:

  • Learn to respond and not react
  • Pause while you speak to others
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed in a social situation, move away for some time till you are relaxed
  • Search for real evidence and do not react based on assumptions
  • Accept and face your fears bravely
  • Take enough self-care by eating well, having a minimum of 8 hours of sleep at night
  • Remain tied with compassionate friends and family who can help you cope with your too much anxiety
  • Learn to sit still and attend to your senses closely
  • Practice mindfulness every day to stay focused on your present moments
  • Avoid thinking too much about past failures and future expectations that may not ever happen
  • Do the needful lifestyle changes to keep stress away
  • Take deep breaths whenever you feel emotionally overwhelmed

The video link shared below gives you an idea of what hypervigilance feels like. Do check out.

Can hypervigilance go away without treatment?

Hypervigilance can be an evolutionary response to guard you against threats and danger or it could stem from some serious mental illness.

Thus, whether it will go off and get better over time depends on where it came from.

Sometimes recent shocks can go away on their own, like facing one humiliation in front of office colleagues, just in case the person doesn’t develop a panic attack in social circles.

But, if hypervigilance arises as a side effect of mental illness, it will not go away on its own.

A planned treatment method is needed to reduce symptoms of hypervigilance.

Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’

Experiencing hypervigilance means you’re always anticipating a worst-case scenario in your life.

You are never relaxed and cannot enjoy the moments of life. The condition will worsen if it accompanies a mental health illness. 

But once you become aware of this condition, you should always seek medical advice from mental health professionals for guidance and coping. 

Self-care and professional advice can help overcome the symptoms of hypervigilance to a great extent.

It’s possible to unleash the lost power whenever you want. The hyperactive watchdog of your mind can easily be defeated with patience and persistence.

Article Sources


Besides, there are some who fear being constantly watched, and this phobia is known as Scopophobia. Know more about it by clicking on this link!

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