If you have trouble sleeping after trauma, that is a natural response and for most people, the symptoms will go away on their own quickly. But if irrational fear and being constantly alert go on for months, then you may be experiencing signs of posttraumatic stress disorder and hypervigilance.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common mental illness affecting about eight million U.S. adults annually. It is a condition brought on by surviving a traumatic episode, where you either observed death or were threatened with great bodily harm. It can affect men, women, and children of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
What Is Hypervigilance?
Healthline defines hypervigilance as “a state of increased alertness” characteristic of different mental health illnesses. “If you’re in a state of hypervigilance, you’re extremely sensitive to your surroundings.” The condition can make you feel alert to hidden dangers from others or the environment, even when real danger does not exist.
Hypervigilance As A PTSD Symptom
Hypervigilance goes way beyond being extra vigilant. It exists as a state of excessive alertness, undercutting your quality of life. If someone is hypervigilant, he is constantly on watch with his imagination working overtime to create hidden dangers, similar to being paranoid.
But hypervigilance is more than a key symptom in people suffering from PTSD, as it also happens with other anxiety disorders, like panic disorder, anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, dementia, schizophrenia, and paranoia.
Symptoms Of PTSD
PTSD symptoms can begin within one month of trauma, but sometimes they might not show until years later. They can include:
- Intrusive memories
- Negative changes in mood and thinking
- Changes in emotional and physical reactions
Each of these is treatable, normally through traditional psychotherapy sessions, self-help and group therapy, hospitalization in severe cases, or the use of medicinal therapy including ketamine infusion or esketamine-based nasal sprays. Talk with your doctor about potential health risks.
Symptoms Of Hypervigilance
Hypervigilance is indicated by four common symptoms:
- The overestimation of a perceived threat
- The compulsive evasion of perceived threats
- A boosted startle response
- Epinephrine-generated physiological symptoms
None of these are proof you honed your physical skills while secretly training as a ninja warrior but could be signs of mental illness.
Coping With Hypervigilance
The chief benefit of psychotherapy, self-help, or group therapy, is that the sessions will instill in you the skills needed to cope with symptoms of hypervigilance and anxiety. Here are some coping strategies that can help:
Remain calm and inhale slow, deep breaths.
- Judge a situation by objective evidence before reacting.
- Pause momentarily before taking action.
- Recognize strong emotions or fears, but without giving in to them.
- Be mindful.
- Set boundaries with yourself and others.
There are inherent risks of PTSD among people of all ages. However, certain factors can make you more susceptible to have PTSD after trauma, including:
- Experiencing long-lasting or intense trauma
- Having suffered other trauma, like childhood abuse
- Working a job that boosts your chance of being exposed to trauma, such as first responders and military personnel
- Having other mental health conditions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression
- Having trouble with substance misuses, such as excessive drug use or drinking
- Not having a good support network to rely on
- Having blood relatives suffering mental health problems, including depression or anxiety
PTSD Self-help Tips
In the event you do not have access to professional therapy or ketamine to control symptoms of PTSD or hypervigilance, there are many self-help therapies to try:
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) — a talk therapy that blends cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. It is perhaps the most frequently practiced kind of mental health therapy with a great success rate in treating PTSD.
- Cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and virtual reality therapy.
- Other drug therapy — for several decades running, drug therapy has remained a universal approach to caring for depression, anxiety, trauma, and other behavioral ailments.
- Time perspective therapy, like CBT.
Diagnosis And Treatment for PTSD
Like other mental illnesses, PTSD is diagnosed by a medical doctor and mental health professional. The diagnosis is confirmed through the DSM-5 manual, with treatment beginning soon afterward. If you have PTSD, you can expect to participate in psychotherapy, and group or self-help therapy. Recent studies have shown that ketamine infusion therapy can help provide rapid relief from the symptoms of PTSD.
PTSD affects millions of people globally, but its symptoms can be controlled with psychotherapy or drugs like ketamine. If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD and hypervigilance, contact us today to learn more about the innovative new PTSD treatment options available in Boise, ID.