If you have been a victim of trauma, you might always feel on edge. Anxiety and hypervigilance can affect the quality of your daily life, from affecting sleep to relationships. Learning more about this symptom and ways to cope is vital to your well-being.
When You’re Always on Edge
Unprocessed trauma can lead to a large array of symptoms that can affect your daily life. When you experience trauma, you are exposed to a situation where you are physically or emotionally in danger. Prolonged exposure to trauma can cause you to be stuck in survival mode. As a result, you might not feel safe, even long after the threat is gone.
Hypervigilance is a common symptom of anxiety and PTSD. After you have been exposed to trauma, you might find yourself looking around every corner, or assessing the safety of even seemingly harmless situations. It is normal to be on edge after experiencing something traumatic.
The symptoms should subside after a few months. If you remain on edge after three months and your symptoms are negatively affecting your quality of life, then it might be a good idea to get screened for PTSD.
Physical Symptoms of Hypervigilance
If you are unsure if you are feeling hypervigilant, you should look at your physical reactions and symptoms. Physical symptoms of hypervigilance can include:
Elevated blood pressure
Higher heart rate
These symptoms can make it difficult to relax at home or when out and about, which can make it hard to function normally at work or home. Hypervigilance is not just limited to PTSD or anxiety – it can be found in many other disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It is important to consider how hypervigilance falls in line with other symptoms.
Symptoms of PTSD
If your hypervigilance falls in line with symptoms such as nightmares related to a traumatic event, flashbacks that make you feel like you are experiencing the event (physically or emotionally), and you feel a loss of pleasure in things that once interested you, then there is a chance you have developed PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include:
Reoccurring, unwanted memories of a traumatic event
Severe emotional or physical reactions to things that remind you of the event
Nightmares about the traumatic experience
Reliving traumatic events as if they are happening, such as in flashbacks
Avoiding places and things that remind you of the event
Avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Feelings of social isolation
Difficulty remembering important details or aspects of the event
Feeling emotionally numb
Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
Negative thoughts about people and the world
If these symptoms sound familiar and you can relate them to a specific event that traumatized you, there is a chance that you have developed PTSD.
Coping With Hypervigilance & Anxiety
It can be exhausting and stressful to be constantly on edge. It might feel like you will never be able to relax because everything feels unsafe. Sometimes you might even use unsafe coping mechanisms in the form of substance use. It is important to bear in mind that there are better coping methods available.
Hypervigilance and anxiety symptoms tend to come from unease about the future that stems from events from the past. Practicing mindfulness exercises can help you stay in the present moment. Meditation can help you stay still in the moment by focusing on your body and breath, while yoga can tone your muscles and keep you focused on your movements and breathwork instead of the thoughts racing in your head.
While dealing with symptoms of PTSD, you may use eating as a coping mechanism. This can lead to over-eating and/or eating junk foods. You could also have a decreased appetite, causing you to not take in the appropriate nutrients. Create a healthy eating plan and stick to it as a way to alleviate symptoms.
Get Enough Sleep
You may often find it difficult to go to sleep and stay asleep at night. It is important to set up a consistent sleep schedule to counter this. Form a bedtime routine that lets your body know that it is time to go to sleep.
Give Yourself Relaxation Time
At the end of the day, give yourself time to relax. This can include a routine for winding down, like stretching after work or taking a bath. It is important to give yourself relaxation time because stress can worsen symptoms of anxiety and hypervigilance.