Generalized Anxiety Disorder Hypervigilance
Hypervigilance is a state of strong nervous energy, or an intense need to keep busy. This feeling can be a natural response after a violent, traumatic event in which the mind and body remain instinctively alert to real or perceived threats. A hypervigilant person often feels extremely anxious, which can cause exhaustion. Additional symptoms of hypervigilance include abnormally increased arousal, a heightened response to stimuli, sleeplessness, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive or obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Hypervigilance can take many forms and can result in many behaviors. Individuals with hypervigilance may check their security in their home and have an alarm system, multiple door locks, window locks, and guard dogs. In dealing with the outside world, these people may cross streets to avoid 'suspicious' strangers, carry defensive weapons, use a police whistle, and have a cell phone programmed with emergency numbers. Not surprisingly, hypervigilance can be an outcome of Acute Stress Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; it can also lead to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
GAD causes individuals to excessively worry about aspects of daily life, so much so that it interferes with everyday activities. In people with this disorder, their worry is often out of control and unrealistic for a specific situation. Since the ‘hyper’ in ‘hypervigilance’ means above normal or unreasonable, this condition may logically lead to GAD. This anxiety disorder’s symptoms include ongoing tension and worry, nervousness, restlessness, trouble falling or staying asleep, and being easily startled. Many of the symptoms of GAD can be traced to the symptoms of hypervigilance. Also, like hypervigilance, GAD can result from a violent event or other trauma in one’s life.
A diagnosis of GAD should be done by a physician who takes a medical history and performs a physical examination. When physical causes are eliminated, the doctor considers the intensity and duration of the anxiety experienced. If worry interferes with daily life, is uncontrollable, is extremely upsetting, and occurs most days for at least six months, an individual may receive a diagnosis of GAD.