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When Anxiety Causes Hypervigilance

January 18, 2024 Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

One of the most significant symptoms of anxiety that I have struggled with has been hypervigilance. Hypervigilance pertains to being on guard and alert for threats in the environment and may result in engaging in behavior with the purpose of preventing danger.1

Unfortunately, though, I've noticed that this hypervigilance has taken many forms. For example, it has pertained to being on the constant lookout for things that are of physical danger in the environment. But this has also pertained to being extremely sensitive to my environment and those around me. It has also related to feeling as though I have to tiptoe around other people, watching what I say, do, or how I behave, for fear that I may be judged by others.

Additionally, it has led to overthinking, feeling like something bad is going to happen, and, at times, withdrawing from those in my environment. Because being around others has led to heightened anxiety and that constant feeling of something being wrong, the oversensitivity can be exhausting. As a result, isolating from others becomes appealing in order to avoid having to feel that overwhelming level of discomfort that comes from anxiety and hypervigilance.

How to Cope with Hypervigilance and Anxiety

Over time, I have worked on my anxiety and hypervigilance as I realized it has, in the past, led to not taking advantage of opportunities, both personally and professionally. Through years of working on this and continuing to work on it, I've found that the following strategies have been helpful:

  1. I've acknowledged and accepted this is part of who I am and the anxiety I struggle with. Being aware of anxiety and hypervigilance, instead of trying to avoid it, was the first step in successfully coping.
  2. I've identified situations that seem to trigger my hypervigilance and anxiety. By doing so, I can be mindful of specific strategies to use in these situations. For example, I know that being in the middle of chaotic situations can be a trigger. Therefore, I will often try to avoid being in this type of environment.
  3. I've found deep breathing and mindfulness both help to calm my nervous system. Deep breathing helps to slow my heart rate, and mindfulness helps me to ground myself in the present moment. 
  4. I've noticed practicing self-care has been instrumental in building my resilience in challenging situations in which I might experience hypervigilance and anxiety. This includes sleeping well, eating well, and regular exercise.
  5. I have continuously worked on managing my emotional reactivity because my hypervigilance often involves fear and other strong emotions. Sometimes, this involves attempting to shift my perspective or viewing things in a logical, objective manner.

These are strategies that have been helpful for me in coping with hypervigilance. In the video below, I discuss these strategies. If there are techniques that you use that are helpful for you, please share them in the comments below.

Source

  1. Burgess, L. (2017, September 7). Hypervigilance: What you need to know. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319289

APA Reference
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2024, January 18). When Anxiety Causes Hypervigilance, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2024/1/when-anxiety-causes-hypervigilance



Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

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