Understanding Hyper Vigilance
Updated: Nov 7, 2021
Hypervigilance is one of the characteristics of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is not always present in every survivor, but it can resurface when the survivor goes through periods of stress. During long periods of traumatic stress, the parts of the brain that are in charge of emotions and fear responses (such as the amygdala) grow more sensitive or even enlarged. In other words, the brain's alarm system after trauma is more sensitized and more easily alarmed. Trauma survivors are often on heightened alert to threats, triggers, and anything that reminds them of the trauma. Little triggers can make survivors very fearful or upset. Unfortunately, as the emotional part of the brain is over-active, the part that deals with rational thought is under-active. Consequently, it is hard for survivors to rationalize the fear, worry, panic, and despair they feel. They are emotional... without having the ability to reason themselves out of it.
How to help: Sometimes, it helps to be a survivor's brain for a while. Say things like: "trust me, I know why you feel this way, but I know that you are safe." Provide safety. Take worries away, distract, stimulate self-care, and pray. In this all, you must always validate a survivor's feelings and validate the person. Don't become impatient, and sigh, and think: "what now," or, "why are you so irrational?" A victim does not want to feel the way they feel.
Whatever you do to help, do not underestimate the value of prayer. Prayers from friends and family can be very effective in upholding someone who suffers from mental pain.