Tag Archives: Overcome Hypervigilance

How Childhood Trauma Can Make Us Constantly Hypervigilant

What Is Meant By Hypervigilance?

A person who is hypervigilant feels constantly ‘on edge’ , ‘keyed up’ and fearful. S/he experiences a perpetual sense of dread and of being under threat despite the fact, objectively speaking, there is no present danger. Indeed, the person affected in this way is so intensely alert to, and focused upon, any conceivable imminent danger that s/he may develop paranoia-like symptoms and frequently perceive danger in situations where no such danger, in reality, exists.

Nervous System

In physiological terms, the nervous system becomes ‘stuck’in an over-activated state and it is very difficult for the hypervigilant individual to calm him/herself sufficiently to enable it to return to a normal level of activation ; instead, it becomes locked into the fight or flight mode (the hypervigilant person’s body is in a continuous state of preparedness to fight or flee because of the anticipation of threat the person feels).

Hypervigilane, Hyperarousal, Childhood Trauma And Complex PTSD :

Hypervigilance is one of the many symptoms of hyperarousal.

Hyperarousal, in turn, is a symptom of PTSD / Complex PTSD which are conditions linked to severe and protracted childhood trauma.

 

Other symptoms of hyperarousal may include :

  • insomnia (e.g. constant waking in night and finding it hard to go back to sleep)
  • extremely sensitive startle response
  • problems with concentration and mental focus
  • abiding feelings of irritability and anger, perhaps giving rise to outbursts of extreme rage / verbal aggression, or, even, physical violence
  • constant anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • reckless behavior
  • using short-term ‘solutions’ such as drinking too much alcohol or using street drugs to reduce painful feelings which, in the longer-term, are self-destructive

It is not difficult to see why the experience of childhood trauma should be linked to increased risk of develop hypervigilance as an adult : if we have lived our early life in an environment that made us feel constantly anxious, under threat and fearful ,our very neural development (i.e. the development of our brain) can be adversely affected and it is such negative effects that can leave us so vulnerable and predisposed to developing the disorder, particularly at times when  our adult lives expose us to further stressful experiences.

RESOURCES :

 

LINK : One of the world’s leading experts on how trauma affects the body, and what can be done about it, is the author of The Body Keeps Score’, Bessel van der Kolk, and his website can be found here : besselvanderkolk.net

 

David Hosier BSC Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Why BPD Sufferers Can Often Read Others’ Emotions So Perceptively

bpd and oversensitivity

BPD and interpersonal sensitivity

When I was a young child, my mother always remarked upon how easily I picked up on the slightest emotional signals she, and others, displayed (such as a tiny change in expression, a very slight change in tone of voice, subtle variations of body language etc). What both she (I presume)  and I were unaware of at the time was that she herself was responsible (but, alas, not in a good way) for this ‘sixth sense’  (as she also sometimes referred to it).

I make this assertion because it has become clear to me now that I developed this ‘talent’ (I put that word in inverted commas because it is rather a mixed blessing) as a survival mechanism. As I have written elsewhere on this site, my mother was extremely emotionally volatile, prone to intense rages and expressions of unadulterated, poisonous hatred which threatened to (or, indeed, succeeded in) the psychological destruction of the child. Furthermore, such hysterical outbursts were highly unpredictable.

You can see, then, where this is going : it was necessary for me to be on constant ‘red alert’ for any sign that my mother was about to succumb to one of these tyrranical fits in order to give myself a chance of taking some sort of evasive action (which, sadly, was all too often not possible). This state of ‘red alert’ was not entered into as a result of a conscious decision, of course, but was unconsciously activated as a psychological defense mechanism; such a state is sometimes referred to as  hypervigilance (which is also a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and of Complex PTSD) or as ‘interpersonal sensitivity‘.

bpd and oversensitivity

To talk in more general terms, many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) who have been subject to such psychological abuse as children may have learned to, and, consequently, become neurologically hard-wired to, pick up on the cues of others so as to emotionally protect themselves.

However, there is experimental evidence to suggest that this ability to ‘read’ others can err too much on the side of caution and generate ‘false positives’ as has been demonstrated in an experiment that showed that those suffering from borderline personality disorder were more likely to interpret neutral facial expressions as hostile and angry facial expressions (click here to read my previously published article about this particular study).

 

RESOURCE :

Overcome hypervigilance. Click here for further details.

 

eBook :

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further details or to view other titles.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE),

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