Hypervigilance is a symptom of many anxiety disorders but is most commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD — it is part of the condition's diagnostic criteria. Someone experiencing hypervigilance has an increased state of awareness and sensitivity to the environment. The brain is on high alert. Active-duty military personnel returning from deployment are at high risk for developing PTSD, and therefore hypervigilance, though it is a risk for anyone who has experienced trauma.
Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event can cause PTSD. Most people who go through a trauma have a difficult time adjusting, but those who develop PTSD may continue to experience symptoms for months and years. Someone experiencing hypervigilance experiences drastic changes in physical and emotional reactions, which is one of the four main groups of symptoms for PTSD.
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