Hypervigilance is a state of acute alertness that makes people excessively attentive to their environment. It can manifest in extreme sensitivity to surroundings, constantly looking for potential threats or feeling endangered even in safe settings. Examples of hypervigilance can range from something as seemingly benign as jumping at unexpected sounds to constant, intrusive worrying about potential future threats.
The Connection Between Trauma and Hypervigilance
Trauma survivors often develop hypervigilance as a survival mechanism. Being acutely aware of everything going on around you can be a protective response, helping you avoid further harm in dangerous circumstances. However, when you continue to be in fight-or-flight mode when there is no threat present, it can disrupt daily life, making it difficult for you to get work done, maintain relationships and even relax or sleep.
Hypervigilance can uniquely affect women due to societal, biological and historical factors. Women move through a world in which many people do not value their safety and bodily autonomy, and that knowledge can make you overly cautious and alert. Additionally, women are more likely to be victims of traumatic events like sexual abuse and domestic violence, leading to a higher likelihood of developing hypervigilance.
Hypervigilance and PTSD
Hypervigilance is a common symptom of PTSD, a mental health condition you can develop after experiencing or witnessing something frightening, upsetting or life-threatening. People living with PTSD frequently find themselves in a state of constant alertness, always ready to react to danger. This heightened awareness is your brain’s subconscious attempt to protect you from future trauma. Unfortunately, this condition will exacerbate your psychological distress by causing issues like anxiety and depression.
In the context of PTSD, hypervigilance may result in various symptoms, such as insomnia, startling easily, an ongoing sense of uneasiness and an elevated heart rate. These symptoms can drastically decrease your quality of life, impeding your ability to complete daily activities and maintain healthy relationships.
Women experience PTSD at higher rates than men, despite men generally being more likely to experience traumatic events. This discrepancy may be due to the types of trauma women survive, including domestic violence and sexual assault. Moreover, women tend to internalize PTSD symptoms like guilt and shame. Coupled with cultural pressures and expectations, this can make PTSD and hypervigilance particularly challenging for women to overcome.
Healing From Trauma and Hypervigilance
Trauma-focused treatment is an integral part of the recovery process for those dealing with hypervigilance. This approach uncovers the trauma’s underlying cause and provides tools to manage and heal from its effects.
At Rising Roads Recovery, we specialize in treating women suffering from trauma and related conditions like hypervigilance. We provide a range of evidence-based treatments, including brainspotting, EMDR and accelerated resolution therapy. By sharing our stories and experiences, we strive to create a nurturing environment where women can craft the futures they want.
Understanding the nuances of hypervigilance and its link to trauma is vital. It provides context to the symptoms and can illuminate the path to recovery. If you or someone you know is dealing with hypervigilance, we invite you to reach out to us at Rising Roads Recovery. Together, we can pave the way to a healthier, more empowered future.