Do you suffer from hypervigilance and what to do if you do?

Do you suffer from hypervigilance and what to do if you do?

Do you check fifteen times if your stove is off before leaving your apartment? Do you jump at the slightest noise? Perhaps you suffer from hypervigilance. 

A symptom linked among other things to anxiety, hypervigilance affects part of the population, even more so since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This psychological state mainly causes sensory hypervigilance, explains to Metro the full professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa and holder of the research chair of the university on stress and mental health, Nafissa Ismail.  

“We become very sensitive to everything that is happening around us and we are constantly [analyzing everything],” says the full professor. 

In addition to screaming and jumping when startled, hypervigilant people tend to avoid crowds and meetings with multiple people; overanalyzing situations and imagining the worst; overreacting to perceived threats; have a hypersensitivity to the tone and expressions used by their interlocutors; as well as taking everything personally, can be read on the Passeport Santé website. 

Nafissa Ismail mentions that people suffering from hypervigilance are likely to continually doubt themselves and experience a feeling of insecurity even in familiar surroundings. Other clues to identify this symptom include exhaustion, irritability, disturbed sleep, and even insomnia.

Hypervigilance can also affect people who have experienced trauma and/or suffer from post-traumatic stress related to a painful event such as an accident, rape or war. 

The Schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder are also conditions that can cause hypervigilance, confirms Nafissa Ismail. 

On the other hand, hypervigilance is not necessarily a problem. 

It becomes problematic when it interferes with our daily activities and prevents us from functioning well on a daily basis. 

Nafissa Ismail, full professor at the University of Ottawa


Constantly tense and stressed, people who suffer from hypervigilance feel exhausted over time, says the full professor. “It's exhausting for us and exhausting for those around us.” 

Hypervigilance can also impact our physical health, adds Nafissa Ismail. 

Examples of physiological problems: 

  • Digestive problems, such as ulcers and abdominal pain; 
  • Reduced effectiveness of the immune system; 
  • Cardiovascular problems; 
  • Impact on the reproductive system, such as anovulation in women and erectile problems in men. 

Possible solutions 

Before going to see a specialist, it is possible to try to manage the symptom yourself, says Nafissa Ismail. 

“We can calm our stress axis by using relaxation techniques,” she suggests, citing breathing exercises as examples. depth, mediation and yoga. 

However, if this is not enough, you must consult as soon as possible, advises the titular professor, so that this state is treated with medication and/or therapy. 

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