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ARE U OK?
Hypervigilance is extreme or excessive vigilance : the state of being highly or abnormally alert to potential danger or threat.
This can be caused by PTSD, anxiety or even paranoia (associated with another mental illness). It can cause us to be extremely sensitive to our surroundings, and even perceive dangers that are not real (ie. hearing a thump at night and assuming it’s someone coming to murder you versus your upstairs neighbor dropping their phone).
Because this can cause us to be on high alert for long periods of time, it can be exhausting to our body and adrenal system (responsible for handling stress in the body – releasing cortisol). This can cause us to be jumpy, or even easily agitated. We can feel constantly on edge, and therefore it can make sleep very difficult.
We may also find ourselves using unhealthy coping skills with more frequency. We may be drinking more often, binge eating, or zoning out in front of the tv or video game, anything to numb us out so that we don’t have to be on edge anymore.
HOW CAN WE OVERCOME IT!
1. First, we have to recognize what our triggers are (practice mindfulness). And get better at recognizing early symptoms (cause everyone is different). If it’s our anxiety that’s causing us to feel this way, it could be our anticipation of someone judging us. If it’s our PTSD that’s causing these feelings it could be a loud noise or feeling trapped somewhere. Recognize what causes this feeling for you, and find ways to self soothe until the hypervigilance feeling goes away. (ie. weighted blankets, calming music, coloring, calling a friend, etc)
2. Be a detective and look for any evidence to support or deny your feeling (ie. hearing a noise and finding your keys fell off the counter will prove that it’s not a burglar).
3. Breathe and take a minute to respond, not react. Telling ourselves it’s okay to feel this way, and not letting it take complete control over our system takes practice, but can help control the symptoms. Adding in the self soothing we just talked about, you should be able to slowly get better and better at calming your system down. Assessing all that you are feeling, and knowing you have the ability to choose to not be affected by it is a new muscle we will have to work on building up. But it can help so much! Even having a plan in place for when we are triggered can help get us started.
4. See a professional! CBT, EMDR, and exposure therapy are all great options if we struggle with hypervigilance. Getting the proper diagnosis (PTSD, an anxiety disorder, or psychosis) will ensure you receive the right kind of care. EMDR is obviously best if our diagnosis is PTSD, exposure therapy works best for anxiety disorder, and CBT can work for psychosis as well as PTSD and anxiety disorders.
5. Medication! I know not everyone wants to be on medication, but if your hypervigilance comes from psychosis this needs to be part of your treatment plan. Most common medications used for this are: SSRI/SNRIs or antidepressants, beta blockers (they help calm your system down), antipsychotics, and anti anxiety medications (like lexapro, or benzodiazepines). LifeNoggin Explains PTSD
someone with PTSD
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If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call a local emergency telephone number or go immediately to the nearest emergency room.