February 3, 2023

Hyper Vigilance

Hyper Vigilance - It's safe to switch off

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Hyper independence is similar, but different to hyper vigilance. Similar in that they both can result in a lack of trust for others and can both also be from a trauma response.  The symptoms and responses will demonstrate differently. Once a trauma has been experienced, the mind and bodywork to keep you as safe as possible, even if they way that it does that is nota rational way of doing so.  The body goes into high alert, sensitised and constantly on the lookout for the next threat

Hyper vigilance is the state of being constantly on guard and ready for a threat or potential attack. It is the elevated state of constantly assessing and scanning potential threats.  This can make it hard to focus on conversations, be present and in the moment, and feel relax and safe in new and unknown environments. People experiencing hyper vigilance can also be easily startled and jumpy or easily frighten or scream at things they see or hear suddenly and can over react to what is happening around them that can be perceived by them as threatening.

This excessive state of awareness and scanning the environment and being constantly on edge can lead to an overestimation of threat, mistrust for people, constant defensiveness, lack of feeling safe, a high level of unease and discomfort in social situations, a rumination and looping of negative thoughts and beliefs and a constant state of dread and catastrophizing situations and always expecting the worst to occur.

The after effect of hyper vigilance is that even after leaving the perceived threathing situation, the residual feelings can linger, resulting in sleeplessness, stress, worry, feeling on edge, and a constant state of fear and dread.  It creates the inability to fully relax at anygiven time.

This constant on edge and high alert feeling increases the cortisol and adrenalin production in the body, not only creating a mind that is on high alert, but also the body feeling constantly wound up and ready to snap at anytime. This is not great on the nervous system! Hyper vigilance is a natural response on the limbic system and activates the fight or flight response.  

With hyper vigilance the reaction to a situation isn’t proportionate to what’s actually happening. There is a disconnect and miscorrelation between what’s happening in the external environment and the internal environment.  The body and brain are still trying to protect from more trauma occurring.

There can be times that hyper vigilance can be beneficial and when it can actually keep you in safe in situations that you need to on alert and aware of your surroundings, like walking late at night, traveling to foreign countries, babysitting and taking care of children, driving in severe weather conditions.

Hyper vigilance in relationships:

This can put a huge strain on relationships.  If one person is constantly worried about their partners actions and behaviours, unable to create and have space, become obsessive about the relationship or is on the constant look out for changes that can impact the relationship dynamics, the entire relationship is in a constant state of fragility.  

This behaviour can create a high level of mistrust and conflict.  Clear and strong communication is vital for the health and longevity of the relationship. Partners with hyper vigilance can also be highly codependent and always put others needs above their own and over give and people please to try and keep people close to them.

It can be challenging for people with hyper vigilance to build trust and connections with other people.

Just like hyper independence, hyper vigilance can be treated and does not need to be a life long condition.  

Signs of Hyper vigilance:

·      Increased heart rate

·      Sweating and perspiration

·      Fast and shallow breathing

·      Pupil dilation

·      Rapid eye movements scanning the room

·      Inability to make eye contact

·      Inability to focus and be present

·      Appearing jumpy and startling easily

·      Always distracted

·      Catastrophizing situations

·      Always expecting worst case situation

·      Unable to be in large crowds or small environments

·      Causes insomnia – resulting in lack of quality sleep which adds to the strain on the nervous system and emotions.

·      Inability to regulate emotions

·      High stress levels that can contribute to mood swings and over reactions

·      Easily triggered

·      Constant state of worry, dread or that something bad Is going to happen

·      Avoiding social interactions


Triggers of Hyper vigilance:


·      Feeling claustrophobic or being in small and confined spaces

·      Crowded environments, large crowds

·      New and unknown environments

·      Feeling a lack of control

·      Uncertainty

·      Emotional distress

·      Criticism

·      Life events

·      Children growing up in environments with parental fighting and conflict

·      Bullying

·      Similar situations and events to the first or repeated traumatic event


Strategies to reduce hyper vigilance:

·      Pausing before responding and reacting

·      Self-reflective exercises

·      Self-care rituals

·      Implementing and enforcing boundaries

·      Slowing down and taking time to observe the environment before allowing the body to respond

·      Communicate with people so others can offer support and emotional assistance

·      Meditation and mindfulness activities

·      Exercise

·      Breath work

·      EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique

·      Stress management strategies  

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