Hypervigilance is an intense emotional and cognitive state. In this state, a person is scanning his or her environment and attempting to process information quickly.
Depending on the individual, a person may be more inclined to scan and be hyper-responsive to:
It is a highly enhanced state of sensory arousal that usually leads to sensitivity.
When a person develops a sensitivity, he or she will begin to change behaviors to adapt and cope with the exhaustion of hypervigilance. This may lead to avoidant coping strategies or an exaggerated emotional response to a facial expression, smell, sound, personality type, or communication style. Really, anything that unconsciously or consciously triggers a past fear or negative experience.
Hypervigilance develops as an adaptive cognitive strength in order to detect threatening activity in the environment. Co-existing conditions often include an anxiety disorder or a history of trauma.