How to Overcome Adult Hypervigilance from Childhood Sexual Abuse & Trauma
If you believe that hyper vigilance has damaged your life; you're not alone. More individuals are affected than you probably realize.
Adults who have experienced child sexual abuse often experience the traumatic stress disorder PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and hyper vigilance, which may contain many hidden dangers and prevent you from living your adult life to its fullest, if you are not aware of the signs.
Overcoming hyper vigilance and PTSD symptoms is possible, and the process will vary based on the underlying cause as well as the severity of the behavior. It also depends on whether or not the affected person recognizes that the behavior is not normal—and it's also not because there is something wrong with the person, but that there is often a lot wrong about what happened to the person.
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What Is Hyper Vigilance and How Does It Show Up In Your Adult Life?
Are You Hyper Vigilant in Your Daily Life?
Whether you are at the grocery store shopping or even at home watching TV, your defenses are always on. Loud noises startle you easily, and you have a tendency to get defensive quickly when talking to other people.
Why is this happening? You are experiencing hyper vigilance, which is likely a result of having endured some form of trauma and dealing with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD/C-PTSD). Dealing with hyper vigilance due to trauma can be frustrating, but hyper vigilance can be overcome.
Here's a checklist of common hyper vigilant behaviors. Do you recognize any behaviors in you or your loved ones?
Monitoring everything around.
Having a hard time trusting others.
Being hyper-alert to any potential threats or danger.
Constantly scanning their environment for anything that could be a threat.
Avoiding situations or places that could trigger memories of their abuse.
Being overly suspicious of others' motives.
Quick to anger or feeling easily threatened.
Having difficulty relaxing or sleeping.
Always feeling on edge and never feeling safe.
Common Myths and Misconceptions about Hyper Vigilance & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Myth 1: Adults who suffer from PTSD and hyper-vigilance should just "get over it."
This is perhaps the most common and damaging myth about PTSD and hyper-vigilance. It suggests that the individual suffering from these conditions is somehow responsible for their own suffering, and that they should just snap out of it. This is not only unfair, but also damaging and can prolong the healing process.
Myth 2: Adults who suffer from PTSD and hyper-vigilance are weak or "damaged."
This myth is damaging because it perpetuates the idea that those who suffer from PTSD and hyper-vigilance are weak or damaged. It implies that there is something wrong with them, when in reality these conditions are a result of something that has happened to them. This can make it difficult for those affected to seek help, as they may feel ashamed or embarrassed.
Myth 3: Adults who suffer from PTSD and hyper-vigilance are "crazy."
This is another damaging myth that can keep people from seeking help. It perpetuates the idea that those who suffer from PTSD and hyper-vigilance are "crazy" or "unstable." This is simply not the case, and those affected by these conditions should not be ashamed or embarrassed.
Adaptive Coping Skills & Behaviors May No Longer Serve You
A natural consequence of the trauma experienced as children are a range of behaviors and adaptive coping skills that no longer serve us well in our adult lives. These behaviors may be termed "disorders" in our adult lives because they can disrupt the order of our lives in negative and limiting ways. These limiting behaviors may also be labeled as other mental health conditions that hinder our happiness and quality of life.
People with anxiety disorders experience intense and excessive worry or fear in situations where most people would not feel concerned. Anxiety disorders can make it difficult to carry out everyday activities, such as going to school or work, socializing, or participating in routine activities.
Symptoms of anxiety disorders can include: excessive worry or fear; feeling restless, irritable, or on edge; avoiding activities or situations that cause anxiety; difficulty sleeping or concentrating; muscle tension, headaches, or stomach aches; and feeling like you are out of control.
People who have experienced child sexual abuse may engage in obsessive avoidance behaviors as a way to try to manage the fear and anxiety that is associated with the abuse. This may include avoiding any situation or person that could potentially remind them of the abuse.
It is not uncommon for individuals who have experienced child sexual abuse to develop a heightened sense of awareness and vigilance. This increased alertness is a natural response to the trauma of the abuse.
Mood swings are common for people who have experienced child sexual abuse. There are times when you may feel on top of the world and other times when you feel like a complete mess. It is important to understand that these mood swings are normal and to not judge yourself for them.
Child sexual abuse can lead to substance abuse as the victim tries to numbed the pain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly half of all victims of child sexual abuse develop a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives. This can be an attempt to self-medicate in order to cope with the pain and trauma of the abuse.
It is critical for individuals who have developed substance abuse problems as a result of child sexual abuse to seek expert assistance to address the underlying issues and prevent further development of an addiction.
Nervous System Sabotage
It is not uncommon for adults who have experienced child sexual abuse to struggle with nervous system sabotage and hyper-vigilance. Due to the traumatic nature of the abuse, the body's natural response is to go into fight or flight mode.
This can often lead to adults being constantly on edge, always on the lookout for potential threats. This can be extremely debilitating and can significantly impact quality of life.
There are a number of ways to overcome nervous system sabotage and hyper-vigilance. It is important to understand that these response are natural and normal given the trauma experienced.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety that interfere with everyday activities and daily interactions. People with GAD may also experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, and fatigue.
Hyper vigilance is a common symptom of GAD, which can lead to difficulty concentrating, sleeping, or relaxing. Adults with GAD may feel like they are constantly on edge and in danger, even when there is no real threat. This can make daily interactions and socializing very difficult.
However, there are ways to manage GAD and hyper-vigilance. Therapy, medication, and self-care strategies can all help to reduce anxiety and improve mental health.
Other Common Symptoms of Hyper Vigilance.
Hyper-vigilance is a common symptom of child sexual abuse. Adults who have experienced child sexual abuse often become extremely aware of their surroundings and are constantly on the lookout for potential threats. This can result in a number of problems, including difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and depression. Hyper-vigilance can also interfere with work and social life.
If you are experiencing hyper-vigilance as a result of child sexual abuse, it is important to seek help from a therapist or counselor who can assist you in managing this symptom.
There are also a number of support groups available for survivors of child sexual abuse. These groups can provide a safe and supportive environment in which to share your experiences and learn from others who have been through similar things.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many people who understand what you are going through.
Breaking The Taboo
Child sexual abuse is a topic that often gets swept under the rug. It’s estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Child sexual abuse can have a lasting impact on survivors, affecting their mental health, relationships, and overall quality of life.
Despite the prevalence of child sexual abuse, it’s still a topic that is often taboo to discuss. Many celebrities have been victims of child sexual abuse and have spoken out about their experiences in an effort to break the silence and help others who may be going through the same thing.
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Here are some celebrities who have been victims of child sexual abuse and "broken the taboo:"
Mary J. Blige, Rosie Perez, Billie Eilish, Ellen DeGeneres, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Demi Moore, Maya Angelou, Roseanne Barr, Fantasia, Rosie O'Donnell, Halle Berry, Gabriel Byrne, Oprah Winfrey, Rose McGowan, Drew Barrymore, Derek Luke, Carlos Santana, Ashley Judd, Mike Tyson, Demi Lovato, and Tyler Perry among others.
What Are Some Ways to Overcome Hypervigilance?
Hyper vigilance associated with PTSD as a result of childhood abuse and trauma can be a very debilitating symptom. It can be difficult to overcome hyper vigilance, but there are ways to manage it. First, it is important to understand what hyper vigilance is, and see the signs and how it manifests.
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See the Signs: See the signs and symptoms of hypervigilance to reduce hypervigilance impacts. Be aware of the physical symptoms and physical signs such as elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, increased startle reflex, reacting in extremely sensitive ways including often feeling in a frequent frustrating emotional state, hair trigger stress that causes reactions faster than you can pause to change them.
Seek Expert Professional Support: Recognize that post traumatic stress disorder and associated psychological disorders can be overcome and your mental health can be restored, especially with the help and support of the right mental health professional.
Stop It Before It Progresses: Understand the mental health conditions and behavioral symptoms of hypervigilance so that you can address hypervigilance without it progressing to chronic hypervigilance.
Learn De-Stressing & Relaxation Practices: Practice deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, eye movement desensitization, and other somatic practices shown to improve mental health.
Seek Online Therapy Options: Manage hypervigilance by understanding hypervigilance, seeking online therapy, seeking healthcare professional mental health treatment, group therapy.
How Mental Health Conditions Can Guide You to Healing.
How is your mental health affected by hyper vigilance in your daily life?
Experiencing hyper vigilance can feel disorienting, especially as it keeps you on high alert and can manifest in physical symptoms that can add to the mental health conditions that can hinder your daily life. You may find your senses are on high alert, ready to spot and respond to any danger.
The situations you are trying to spot in high alert mode may be: a physical danger, a repeat of a traumatic event, or even something that wrong in a relationship. This super alertness makes people with hypervigilance feel and act as though there is always a threat around the corner.
Normally, you are not responding to a real threat. Rather, your brain is overanalyzing, and overreacting to, input from your senses. In these instances of experiencing hypervigilance, you can pause, identify whether there is a real threat, and then change your response based on the present, rather than based on past traumas.
PTSD hypervigilance can be a common experience of people who have survived abuse. As a result, those who experienced childhood abuse may exhibit hypervigilance with good reason. A hypervigilant response based on the need to be on high alert as a child in order to protect yourself was necessary in childhood.
However, as adults, the anxiety created by responses that are no longer helpful, can lead to additional stress, creating even more anxiety. Awareness of the symptoms of anxiety can prompt you to pause and recognize the threats that are in the past and reduce the impacts of those traumatic events in the present by seeking assistance from a mental health professional.
Final Thoughts As You Move Forward
Hyper vigilance is a common symptom of post traumatic stress disorder arising from childhood sexual abuse and trauma. It can be extremely disruptive to daily life and can make it difficult to form trusting relationships. However, there is help and support available to manage hyper vigilance and live a more productive life.
If you are struggling with hyper vigilance, it is important to seek help from a qualified therapist. There are also support groups available specifically for people who have experienced child sexual abuse. These groups can offer you support and practical tips for managing your hyper vigilance.
Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. There are many people who understand what you are going through and who can offer you support. With help, you can overcome the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and live a fulfilling and happy life.
Podcast - Listen Today: Overcoming Child Sexual Abuse - With Kathy Andersen - The Podcast. #1 Rated Podcast by Feedspot.
Do you need help overcoming the effects of childhood sexual abuse?
In this podcast series, Kathy Andersen, award-winning self-development author and survivor of a childhood of sexual abuse, brings together leading experts and inspiring contributors in areas including positive and clinical psychology, self-mastery and development, and trauma recovery to share practical approaches and new learnings to help adults break free from the ongoing trauma, triggers, and turmoil of child sexual abuse and create a life filled with authentic happiness. It's never too late to overcome abuse and live the life that sets you free!
The podcasts are available anytime, anywhere. You can listen to them on your phone, computer, or tablet. And they're completely free!
In the event of a mental health emergency, please call 911, or call the SAMHSA 24/7 Helpline or visit the website here. You can also call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website here.