Hypervigilance is a large word, but it is easy to understand, and all anxiety-sufferers engage in this act to some degree. So, what is hypervigilance? I’ll spare our readers from a difficult-to-understand book definition of the word and boil it down in this way: hyprevigilance is when an anxiety sufferer is excessively aware of certain things that are anxiety-provoking to that particular sufferer.
Hypervigilance, for the socially anxious person, means that person is keenly aware of certain things that would provoke his or her social anxiety. For example, that person may be walking down the street and looking at other people’s eyes. When this person sees people looking at him or her in different ways, that person thinks those other people are thinking about “how stupid” (or other negative things) that person is. Hypervigilance means that this person spends way too much time looking for these types of “signs” from other people.
Hypervigilance can vary widely between different types of anxiety sufferers. I do not have as much expertise in regard to panic disorder and generalized anxiety, but my guess is that panic disorder sufferers will be hypervigilant for signs that a panic attack is coming on, which only serves to strengthen the probably that the attack will actually happen. Generalized anxiety suffers may be hypervigilant for certain thoughts, situations, or events such as a small mistake at work, which the anxiety-sufferer may take to mean that he or she is going to be fired.
Hypervigilance, as a concept, is somewhat difficult to explain; however, I hope that these examples have helped to demonstrate what it actually is.
As anxiety sufferers, we are all hypervigilant for certain people, events, or situations that provoke our anxiety. Hypervigilance can play a big role in strengthening one’s anxiety. So, what is a possible solution for hypervigilance?
Easy, all that needs to be done is to shift one’s attention to other things. Instead of attending to the stranger’s scary glance on the street, one can instead attend to the car, the stores, or perhaps a bird flying by. Or, one could become more introspective and think about different things one has to do during the day.
Another strategy one can use to reduce hypervigilance is to instead try more realistic interpretations of certain events that provoke anxiety. For example, instead of taking the stranger’s scary glance in a personal manner and thinking, “My gosh, that person thinks I am an idiot,” one could instead try thinking this: “perhaps that person is just having a bad day and happened to look in my direction,” or “perhaps that person is an anxious person just like myself and is worried by the presence of others.” There are millions of different ways to interpret any situation; if none of these interpretations work for the reader of this article, or if one simply does not like them, the reader can simply come up with his or her own realistic interpretation, so long as it is in fact more realistic and anxiety-reducing.
Hypervigilance is a problem which all of us anxiety-sufferers struggle with on a regular basis. It has a lot to do with magnifying our anxiety levels. The best thing to do is to find one’s own way of interpreting anxiety-provoking cues in a more realistic and anxiety-reducing away, or to instead shift one’s attention to other things. I do not think that it is possible to completely eliminate one’s hypervigilance, however, it is very possible for one to reduce his or her hypervigilance, which will in turn reduce one’s anxiety level.
Good luck to the reader as he or she strives to manage this aspect of anxiety!