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Adrienne Dellwo

Hypervigilance in Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By April 26, 2012

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Hypervigilance: a state of being constantly tense, on guard, and exceptionally aware of the environment.

Some researchers believe that hypervigilance is a feature of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Some research supports this hypothesis, while some does not.

The idea is that our brains become overly aware of things, which can include painful stimuli, noises, bright lights, and general activity. That could explain why our bodies react so strongly to sensation that most people wouldn't experience as painful, as well as why we're sensitive to noise, light, chaotic environments and more.

With hypervigilance, not only do you notice things more readily, you're likely to be unable to divert our attention from them. When something is beeping in the other room, we'll notice it right away, be highly distracted by it, and probably become agitated until it goes away. The same goes for feeling the pressure of a waistband or how a fabric rubs across your skin. Our brains perceive it as a threat, our brains fixate on it, and our phsyiological response is far more extreme than it should be.

My personal opinion is that hypervigilance does play a role in these illnesses, as it does in other conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias - both of which share some common physiology with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

My Hypervigilance Experience

The human brain perceives a lot of information about our environments that we're never consciously aware of. There are too many signals bombarding our brains at any one time, so there's a filtering process - things considered unimportant are filtered out and we're never cognizant of them. Anything that your mind considers a threat, however, gets extra attention. This can be a highly personalized response, depending on what your brain has learned is a danger.

I have arachnophobia (fear of spiders.) Because of it, I'm almost assuredly the first person in the room who will notice a bug on the wall or something small moving on the carpet across the room. My brain is constantly on alert for them, especially in places where I've frequently seen them. We used to get a lot of hobo spiders (which are poisonous and huge) in our laundry room late in the summer. As a result, I'm always on alert in there, and alert to the point of anxiety in August.

When I see a spider, I want to run away, curl up in a safe place and cry. Since developing fibromyalgia, my response to aggravating environments is similar. A few months ago, I was standing in line to buy something in a small, chaotic store in which an employee had turned on loud, clangy music with an extremely rapid beat.

Fortunately, I was with my husband and when I handed him my items and told him I had to get out of there, he understood. Outside, I sat down against a wall, closed my eyes, and breathed deeply until I was no longer in danger of a full-blown anxiety attack. I can't see the difference between this reaction and what happens when I see a spider.

Living With Hypervigilance

Most parents experience a certain amount of hypervigilance when it comes to our children. When you have a new baby, the tiniest whimper can bring you flying out of bed. You notice small hazards that other people don't, such as an exposed power outlet or a glass on the edge of a table.

It's not healthy to spend too long in a hypervigilant state. Police officers and soldiers in combat zones often do, which is what puts them at risk for PTSD.

Hypervigilance can disrupt sleep, cause avoidance behaviors, and make you jumpy and anxious. Being on alert all the time is exhausting. It can make you irritable and prone to outbursts. Panic attacks are definitely possible.

Given that symptoms list, it seems highly likely to me that hypervigilance is part of our illness - at least for a lot of us. Those who don't have anxiety issues may be an exception.

Do you think you experience hypervigilance? What impact does it have on you? Have you found treatments that help alleviate it? Leave your comments below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


Photo © Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

April 26, 2012 at 5:52 am
(1) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Overlapping of Fibromyalgia Syndrome Symptoms says:

Hello, Yes in your blog, i learn more & more about Hypervigilance and also wish to know more about it.

Thank You so much for such a good & important information
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

April 26, 2012 at 6:17 am
(2) Nicole says:

As a former school teacher, I would work with autistic children who really suffered from this and I alway felt so badly for them. I had some problems with it due to my migraines, but now, as my health has declined, I have found that I suffer from hypervigilance, big time!!! There are certain fabrics that when a person rubs their hand on them, I about jump out of my skin! It is like nails on a chalkboard. I could go on with a lot of stories, but I have learned to try to repress my reactions to things because people already think I am crazy!!! I am so glad to see a name put to this. Thank you SO much!!!

April 26, 2012 at 7:24 am
(3) Caroline Rolling says:

What a very well written blog, you’ve explained this so well.

I used to live with hypervigilance and could give a large number of examples. I remember on one occasion feeling the painful noise of nurses aprons rustling as they walked along a hospital corridor, from a hundred yards away! I sat with hands over my ears and dark sunglasses covering my eyes to try and keep out the light too.

I’ve been fortunate in moving on from all symptoms of ME and Fibromyalgia using a combination of techniques. The ones I found most helpful were EFT (emotional freedom techniques) and Matrix Reimprinting.

Thanks for making this information available, I’m sure many will find it helpful.

April 26, 2012 at 7:42 am
(4) Ása says:

I’ve read about this as Multisensory hypersensitivity rather than hypervigilance which relates more to PTSD. Multisensory hypersensitivity in fybromyalgia relates directly to our dysfunctional nervous system.

April 26, 2012 at 9:30 am
(5) Rachael says:

High sensitivity is innate:

You are born with it. Infant research shows that this sensitivity seems to be present from birth. Carl Jung was apparently not far off the mark in his sense of its prevalence since current studies suggest that 15-20 % of all humans (and even animals) show the trait of high sensitivity and that it is equally divided between men and women. This non-trivial rate of appearance in the population suggests that it offered an evolutionary advantage. Individuals who are sensitive or reactive will “look before they leap” and survive to reproduce.

Jung proposed that this sensitivity was related to a character trait which he called “introversion” and that it was also connected to the quality of “intuition”. Variations in brain activity suggest that a lot of our individual differences have an underlying biological cause.


April 26, 2012 at 9:32 am
(6) Agatha says:

I’m so glad I read this, I am going to have some of my family members read it, it may help them understand why I behave the way I do sometimes. It’s also great to know there are other people out there that feel and react the way I do and that I am not some sort of freak. I first realised that I was ‘hyper-sensitive’ around 6 yrs ago and didn’t really understand much about this until the last few months. When I start reacting badly to something I have to pull myself up and tell myself “it’s not that bad, you are reacting this way because of the fibromyalgia”. Sometimes it works sometimes, sometimes not. I’m getting better at it. Although some days I can’t stand even light cloth in my skin or the sound of the base of the neighbours stereo that doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. Nothing seems to stop my reactions, but I am learning to talk myself through different situations. I am just so glad that I now have some sort of explanation as to why I am the way I am. I would be grateful to hear others experiences and how they cope.

April 26, 2012 at 11:36 am
(7) Mellonie says:

I hate being around anything with a chaotic environment! Even family gatherings are overwhelming! I’m also noise and light sensative! I can’t go outside without a good pair of sunglasses! I have to mute the television when my teenage children are talking, or while on the phone! I have outbursts when everyone is talking at once I will yell at them to be quiet! My wardrob has changed dramatically! I can only wear certain types of clothes usually pajama pants or longe pants and t-shirts! This has caused me to start researching anxiety issues because I didn’t know what is going on! My life has completely changed!

April 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm
(8) Nancy A. says:

I’ve had CFS and fibromyalgia for 26 years. I’m very hypersensitive in the ways described above, also including temperature in a room. I’m on Lyrica for my pain and on an antidepressant (doxepin) which helps with anxiety, and both medications help me sleep.

This “hypervigilance” and anxiety that many of us experience in our daily lives probably contributes to our chronic fatigue.

April 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm
(9) Alison Barton says:

I really relate to the state and effects of hypervigilence . The blog explains alot and really resonates with me. I can suddenly catch myself holding myself legs arms hands stiff as a board, no wonder I ache. Relax relax I keep saying meditation and slowing things down certainly helps but , crowds and multi chattter agitate me no end.

April 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm
(10) mimi says:

Thank you for your most interesting and informative article. I began being aware of my own hypervigilance when I was working as a psychologist and had to be on call at night for hospital admissions. When I began to receive calls at night I had severe emotional reactions, and then started to be hypervigilant at night and then all of the time. I had to discontinue my availability at night. That was about 15 years ago. After that I had to take care of my ailing mother and I had a very difficult time keeping my emotions in a calm state. I had to try to make sure the care of my mother was as perfect as possible because she demanded thatshe get the best of everything. I was confused as to why she acted that way as well as why I responded the way I did. She since passed away and I went through a very deep depression that I was unable to figure out. In the past two years I have begun to remember terrifying childhood sexual abuse that my mother may have been aware of, but did nothing to stop. I have been working very hard with a therapist to come to terms with my forgotten childhood and all of the abuse I suffered. With my strong faith I have felt a personal strength despite or even as a result of what I went through. Also, my hypervigilance has been dwindling away. This is not to suggest that all hypervigilance has an emotional or abuse component. I just wanted to talk about my own experience and hope it can help someone else.
Best Wishes.

April 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm
(11) Karen Cambanes says:

I have fibromyalgia..It’s still relatively new to me….but hypervigilance could apply to me..considering the anxiety I get so easily and because of other mental things going on with me too…loud noises bug me, I have PTSD and some other issues…from things that’ve happened in my past and such and I was aware that of the hypervigilance in myself way before I was even diagnosed with the fibro…me..I am working very hard with therapists and other care takers and such to try and get a control on those issues…anyways…thanks for this very helpful article…I enjoyed reading it.. <3

April 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm
(12) jenn says:

I have a fear of hieghts and closed in spaces and suffer with serve chronic depression, and have terrible anxiety attacks reading this article I now know what I am suffering from.

Thank you so much.

April 26, 2012 at 8:02 pm
(13) Linda G. says:

I definitely suffer from hyper-vigilance. What I didn’t realize was for how long. I can go back 20 or 30 years. I’ve always retreated to a quiet room after I am in a crowd, or have been with people for many hours. I can’t take noise, can’t take commotion, I like it calm and quiet. I become extremely irritable when I’m in a situation I can’t control. I feel like I just want to jump out of my skin. I go into stimulus overload.

April 26, 2012 at 8:08 pm
(14) Abot Bensussen says:

My kids send me photos and I am like a detective discerning all the details of place, light, people, attitudes, etc. Hyper-vigilent, also noticing evertthing in my environment. Which is why I avoid crowds, noise, too much stimulation of any kind. Only one of my four children is like this, too. The youngest boy who never ceases to amaze me with his visual
acumen. Of course, all this sensitivity tires us out. I wouldn’t change this even if I could. It’s how I know myself.

Thanks for such an interesting topic. Abby

April 26, 2012 at 8:08 pm
(15) Abot Bensussen says:

My kids send me photos and I am like a detective discerning all the details of place, light, people, attitudes, etc. Hyper-vigilent, also noticing evertthing in my environment. Which is why I avoid crowds, noise, too much stimulation of any kind. Only one of my four children is like this, too. The youngest boy who never ceases to amaze me with his visual
acumen. Of course, all this sensitivity tires us out. I wouldn’t change this even if I could. It’s how I know myself.

Thanks for such an interesting topic. Abby

April 27, 2012 at 1:18 am
(16) Joy Schulenburg says:

When I’m in a Fibro flare, I become extremely sensitive to noise. Even not in a flare, I have a lower tolerance for certain sounds (low bass noises are the worst.) I would be aware of a truck with a stereo blaring coming down the road MINUTES before anyone else could hear it and start to get agitated and uncomfortable. I was put on Cymbalta and am currently taking Savella for Fibro symptoms and both have – blessedly – eased the sound hypersensitivity enough to make my life much more bearable.

April 27, 2012 at 11:02 am
(17) Ali stone says:

I had severe light sensitivity and sound sensitivity, to genuine panic level.

Three GP’s and three neurologists failed to diagnose me as having a viral infection and as a result CFS/ME

My fourth GP diagnosed me in five minutes.
I have improved a lot. I could barely stay in a room with the TV on, now I can watch some real programmes, with sound! I hate being in crowds, but if they are peaceful, I am fine. I have found one noisy person can panic me more than a whole air port full of travellers!
Lots of fast movement past my face upsets me and persistant noise is out! Small children,sadly, are the main terrors . Luckily we don’t have children so can enjoy other people’s and withdraw when it gets a bit much.
I could go on forever, listing things, so will keep it brief.

Sudden loud noise big panic

Persistant noise, gradual panic.
Ear plugs are a must , just carrying them with me now gives me the courage to visit more places. I have to be with someone, my husband usually, but a trusted friend is good. I often have to leave , not so much in a hurry now; more a dignified exit.

Fast motion vertigo and palpitations.

Light as in reflection, severe discomfort, it used to cause bad panic attacks, but I have improved and have found sunglasses and eye blinds help. I cannot drive as I often have to travel with these and my eyes shut.

So there we are, but I am improving. The main thing is be gentle on yourself. Get diagnosed. Don’t hang out with people who try to badger you. The Christmas card list may change, but you won’t be lonely as there are others who understand.

Ali X

April 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm
(18) youdontlooksick says:

I believe this is what I’m experiencing with a noisy, and nosey neighbor. I know he is spying on me and his TV is blaring at least 16 hrs a day, but is it really that loud or is this my preception? I’m always on edge because of it and also a bit paranoid. Part of the illness?

April 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm
(19) kathy r says:

Hello all, another wonderful post. This explains so very much, and it goes back to childhood. I can’t remember hardly anything about being young, except I remember I liked to lay in the laundry basket (so I must have been small) wondering what it was like to not exist, and my favorite place to play in the whole world was to get my folks to move the couch out a little, and I would set up my place back there. Privacy issues!!

I’ve struggled with agoraphobia for 35+ years and panic attacks and social phobias, ad nauseum (sp?). More than 3 people in a room is too much. Since I have had to move in with other people since getting sick and losing home and needing someone to go to store for me and such, I have been living in my various bedrooms for the last 10+ years. God has blessed me with finding me people to let me live with them, so I am blessed. But I digress, I too find myself sitting stick straight and seldom can untense long enough to sleep more than 2 hours at a time. Needless to say, I have been exhausted for a long time.

Thank you so much for this important information. I too am so glad to find my sensitivity to sounds, and movement, and light have some kind of reason. Everyone has just assumed I was crazy (myself included) all these years. God bless you for the work and research you do for this forum. It can be life saving, and I thank you so much for it. kathy in Arizona (for now-ha ha!!)

April 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm
(20) Cristi from Oklahoma says:

I can definately relate to this story, I feel that way everyday. The worst place for me to be is in a busy store. It has gotten so bad that I had a panic attack in the middle of the store and just sat down in the floor and cried. I was alone which made it worse but I called my husband and he walked me thru getting out of the store…needless to say the basket that was half full never made it to the check-out or home. I avoided all store for two months after that and my husband had to step in and fill the gap. I am very thankful that he is so supportive.

April 27, 2012 at 6:12 pm
(21) Sharon says:

I have always been hypervigilant but I thought it was because I had post traumatic stress syndrome! I am like this around people and am very threatened by people who drink alcohol or are loud and obnoxious. Have always been very aware of my surroundings and prefer to be some where quiet and isolated.

April 27, 2012 at 6:39 pm
(22) Beachy says:

On a bad day, a crowded noisy restaurant with people bumping into me and screeching children is my idea of pure hell. At that point, I usually feeling a bit hypoglycemic anyway, and that combo touches off a kind of rage reaction in me. It’s very hard to control & may seem like an over-reaction to the other folks I’m with, but I am honestly maxxed out — irritable and irrational. My sympathetic nervous sytem is overloaded in all ways and my parasympathetic refuses to kick in. It’s simply broken.

The other thing that seems trigger-happy is my startle reaction, which I’ve always had, but feels like it’s getting worse. I’m not someone you creep up on & yell BOO!

April 27, 2012 at 7:14 pm
(23) Jen says:

It makes sense. I appear to be a text book case of hypervigalence and fibro

April 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm
(24) Anna says:

Boy, can I relate. I first heard the term hypervigilance from a doctor about 15 years ago when I told her about reactions I was having as I was driving, such as waiting for the light to turn green or trying to change lanes on the freeway.

I’ve always been what I call very perceptive. I think of it as having fewer filters to sensation than other people. I’ll say something stinks in the kitchen. My husband will say, “I don’t smell it. It must be your nose.” meaning my perception of smells. I’m forever telling him to turn down the TV.

Another symptom of this I believe is tinnitus, ringing in the ears. No one can really explain it or solve it. Sometimes it drives my insane and I want to scream. I play a lot of music which helps.

April 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm
(25) jacquelin hernandez says:

gracias mil gracias por tener esta paguina para saber y entender cada dia mas lo que me sucede. Desde hace años o mejor dicho desde q tengo uso d razon mi vida ha sido una tragedia constante,yo he sufrido todo tipo de enfermedades renales virales y dolores infinitos que no han tenido logica ni razon hasta el año pasado q me diagnosticaron con fibromialgia no se si ahora q tengo un nombre me debo sentir mejor pero la verdad no ha sido asi no le consigo logica ahora estoy mas desesperada q nunca cada dia es peor q el anterior ya me da pena quejarm necesito ayuda desesperadamente agrdesco todo lo q me puedan aconsejar para poderme aliviar

April 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm
(26) Tonya says:

I am so glad I read this. I thought I was going crazy. I cant stand being in a store for more then 20 minutes, I have to leave. I have gotten to where I really do not want to leave my house because I get so stressed out being around people. Light and sounds bother me and drive me to distraction. My husband has said that I make a cubby hole and surround myself with things to keep everyone away from me. I have always been a people person but as my Fibro worsens so does the flight or fight response.

April 27, 2012 at 8:08 pm
(27) Kathy says:

Hypervigilence and Fibro is a state I live in and have struggled to understand why I always feel so amped up. Why multiple noises come at me like warfare. Why I feel like the news is a personal attack. Prior to Fibro none of this was true. Loud noises and lights were never a problem and today it is a source of anxiety. It finally brought me to the point where I had to seek outside resources and I have found Cognitive behavioral therapy a huge help. It takes some work on the individuals part. But if you are willing to take the time to stop slow things down a moment and think Rationally the level of anxiety seems to go down considerably in turn the pain diminishes. I found that every time I would feel this state my fibro pain would increase so much and today I am doing so much better. I wish you all well in your journey.

April 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm
(28) lori says:

Wow! What an awakening for me. This article allows me to feel “normal”. At least I am not in the boat alone. At every party I am the one in the kitchen washing dishes while everyone else is “experiencing” the party. At work I sometimes have to walk outside just to get a break from the chatter. The tinnitus explained by another blogger is another problem and not to mention if someone comes in to our store with lots of perfume! Watch out, here comes the headache and nausea. My employees wonder how I can hear everything going on around me and recognize customers voices. Usually I can hear the fluorescent lights buzzing, then bring in the phones ringing off the hook, co-workers chatting with the customers, music playing in the background and questions being thrown at me incessantly makes me feel like I could just “burst” or feel a need to walk outside to get some quiet time. Between the FM and the hypervigilance I have become somewhat unsocial. Don’t like it but quiet time is like gold to me. Thank you for making me feel like it is okay and explain that it does happen with many persons. Everyone hang in there. :-)

April 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm
(29) Paula says:

Thank you for writing this! I could relate to everything you mentioned. Especially like being the first one to see a bug on the wall or floor. That is so me! I have left stores because I feel overwelmed by something, whether it’s the crowd, the lights, the size of the store, or even the smell of new carpet in a new store. I am hypersensitive to a lot of things, and it’s good to know what it is, and that other people can relate.

April 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm
(30) Sherry says:

I am so glad I read this. I don’t feel “abnormal” anymore. I thought it was just me! This explains so much about myself now. Thank you!!!

April 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm
(31) Lynn says:

Prior to FM, I was slightly more sensitive than most to smells and certain materials. After FM, I am exactly as you have described in your example. I would definitely say that hypervigilance is a part of having FM. I now have to avoid certain restaurants which I was previously able to tolerate, my entire wardrobe has changed to “soft” fabrics and I am no longer able to be in a crowd of people. There have been many times since the onset of my fibro 18 years ago, that I have to leave a situation very quickly.

Since I had some sensitivity prior to FM, my family thought it was just me getting older and more persnickety. I am so happy to be able to send them all a link to this article!!

April 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm
(32) Patricia says:

wow, Having been diagnosed with Rhematoid arthritis and fybromyalgia finally about 8 years ago after sufferring for 20 years now this article caught my attention as I have always struggled with anxiety and being sensitive to loud noises, crowds, etc.This completely describes me.

April 27, 2012 at 10:22 pm
(33) Sharon says:

after reading this i was like wow i was only recently diagnosed with CFS and finally light has been shedded on why i am the way i am and yes i have found i am hyper aware of certain things noise is one of them and i find it really hard to refocus myself and its the same when i get headaches or my bodyaches and yes i can definately relate it to the spider thing(i too have a phobia of spiders and am always the first to spot them and ultra aware of areas they are in) and i am finding in these cases i clench my jaw instead of the body becoming tense and i know that makes the headaches worse thank you for this as i read more and more i am learning more and hearing others experiences makes it easier for me to understand and know that i am not alone nor am i going crazy

April 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm
(34) Janice says:

Why is the finger always pointed at us? “Hypervigilance” is only a problem because we are in the minority. My belief is the same as Jung, thank you Rachel (5). “Hypervigilance” shows development of better survival skills. Also, regarding Sharon (21)’s comments.., what in the world are people thinking? What exactly is normal about being over-served and obnoxiously loud? If you are that wasted, your bartender is in violation of the law, and let me not get into what a waste it is not to savor good liqour. I’m not even talking about regular laughing and having a good time. I believe this negative view of the “hypervigilant” person also has a lot to do with the drastic deterioration of good manners, lack respect/compassion for one another, selfishness, and skewed values.

April 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm
(35) Penny says:

TYTY 4 posting this info! My family, especially my grown sons, have teased me since I became symptomatic that Mom has ‘bat ears’, lol.
Certain noises will literally drive me insane when other people claim they can’t hear or can just ‘tune’ it out. Loud music as in a passing car, my neighbors mariachi music, will literally have me screaming. Low temperature is also a must 4 me & I find the filtered central air a great help during high allergy seasons. It actually cuts the pain w/o so many allergens in the air. Filters help also. I literally cried when I found your site. So many symptoms you listed I’ve been exhibiting such as becoming allergic 2 anti-biotics, I had no idea were related 2 fibro. TY again 4 your wonderful info!

April 27, 2012 at 11:31 pm
(36) Theresa says:

Thank you so much for this article. It has given me greater understanding and acceptance of myself and my condition(s). This can be very isolating and depressing. I have to really make an effort to be social now. Thank you again and God luck to all of you.

April 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm
(37) Chris I says:

Everytime I go through comments by people with fibromyalgia, I am struck by the number stating that they have PTSD. I have both myself. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia almost 20 yrs ago when it was considered a psychiatric disorder ( they didn’t know the cause and it happens mostly in women so – voila – hysteria ! ) it has been found that many of the people who have it have had traumatic events Now it is believed that it is an exaggerated response of the nervous system Is it possible that PTSD causes this exaggerated response and, therefore, hypervigilence ? Obviously the mind and body are not separate entities. One of my doctors believes that fibromyalgia is a sleep disorder ( if I have a bad night I’m a train wreck ) Again , do PTSD and hypervigilamce distort sleep and cause fibromyalgia ?? I think I’m hypervigilamf because of PTSD – when you have been harmed you develop greater awareness of your surroundings .

April 28, 2012 at 1:35 am
(38) Dev says:

This explains so much. My Doctor once told me that she thought I suffered from PTSD because of all the trauma that I had in my life since childhood this was after I was diagnosed with Fibro but before it got unbearable. I appreciate your article it was very informing.

April 28, 2012 at 5:23 am
(39) paola says:

I have fibromyalgia and I am hypervigilant. I think that my strong meteoropathy is part of it.

April 28, 2012 at 5:59 am
(40) Julie says:

O.M.G this is me!!!! I’ve had M.E. and C.F.S for 15 years and the hyper sensativity has been a major symptom. I am loads better now but still very sensative to noise – some drive me nuts! Wowo! it’s amazing to see all this written down and know that I am not the only one. Thank you and hoping you keep well. Julie xx

April 28, 2012 at 8:57 am
(41) Robbie Bowman says:

Thank God someone put a name to something that has plauged me for years!!! It really is like P.T.S.D. I lived in a very high crime area where there where a lot of shootings, robberies, etc. and it wasn’t safe to go out at night. I have since moved into the country (East Tn,), and am doing so much better. Sometimes it takes drastic measures to get better. I still can’t deal with loud noises, and have panic attacks but I’m getting better!

April 28, 2012 at 11:27 am
(42) Mardi B says:

My life is a constant quest for inner peace. My only concrete advice to others dealing with hypervigilance is to cultivate meditation techniques and try Bach Rescue Remedy.

April 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm
(43) Tara Cromer says:

I am always this way without the panic attack. I have crazy phobias and am also hypersensitive to people’s moods and comfort levels. It is exhausting.

April 29, 2012 at 8:42 am
(44) Michael says:

Luckily, I don’t have to face any of the three venomous spiders that can be found in US including the hobo spiders. Hobo Spiders can be found in many states in US that include Washington, which is Oregon, Idaho and Nevada, Utah and Montana.

April 29, 2012 at 9:43 am
(45) Tess says:

Thank you once again for a wonderfully informative article! I never knew it had a name or a title if you will! I just thought I was overly sensitive about every little noise! Wow! Never mind the spiders I have been scared of those for years especially since I am ashamed to say I used to have a alcohol problem and suffered the DT’s so I saw spiders big as your head! Need less to say I have been sober for about 20 years now and the spider issue isn’t too bad now especially since I discovered if you kill one that you could get more bad luck(old English superstition). Having Fibromyalgia though has brought on the anxiety alot heavier, I drive my husband crazy sometimes worrying about stuff next week or six months from now. I do really try to control that with breathing and vitamins and exercise.

April 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm
(46) Aidan Walsh says:

I have never had these symptoms prior to a severe sudden onset febrile illness…I fought also as a boxer prior to illness and the person I fought is sick with the same illness so this description above is only the end result of a persistent infection…HIV/AIDS patients experience the same symptoms…Last, also beware alot of the postings above are actually put there by the phycologists and they are not patients but frauds pushing for phycological reasons…Do not believe everything you read…cfs/fibro/p.t.s.d./g.w.i. are physical illnesses and a result on central nervous system infections or undiagnosed entities such as chiari/stenosis or even chronic rhino sinusitis…These could even include alpha radiation poison (uranium) and permanent chromosone breakage and translocation…There is also some news out on eschemia of the heart…The gulf war vets who were already screened for chromosone damage have irreversible damage and there is nothing that can reverse this process ‘nothing’

April 30, 2012 at 11:15 am
(47) Emah says:

What a great post and an enlightening. It explained some of my behaior. Now I now I am not crazy or being a pain to someone else. Thank you.

April 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm
(48) Brian says:

I suffered from PTSD long before I ever started showing symptoms of FMS. I think the stress of the PTSD contributed to the onset of the FMS. I am surprised that there may be people with FMS who don’t have PTSD, but I wonder if that is accurate…or, if they simply have not been diagnosed with PTSD yet.

April 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm
(49) Kandi says:

I have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia my sensitivity is so severe when I am in a loud place w/ alot of people ie. Walmart I have sezuires it really sux and I can’t change it. I just have to deal with it.

April 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm
(50) Christie says:

I do think, it is a natural part of us.

We know that we are hypersensitive to stimuli.

The list goes on.
I do believe we are hyper-vigilant. We are affected by environment more than most.
It impacts our life and if you LOOK BACK, you’ll generally realize, you always were. You are just more aware now.

The age old debate, that most of us have…
Am I sick because I was a classic type A personality? Am I sick because I was a typical over-achiever?
Most of us who develop Fibromyalgia, MS, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue… We are generally of above average intelligence, classic type A personalities, classic over-achievers.
My Neurologist thinks that we generally ALWAYS WERE.
The question is, is it a hallmark of those of us who WILL become ill? Is it a hallmark of the disease process?
Are we/Were we that way, because of our illness…. and it later manifests in physical disability?

I think the illness came first.

April 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm
(51) Christie says:

As for coping???

I avoid situations with large crowds, if I can. If I have to do, I take someone with me, that I trust. They can become a great buffer between you and a crowd.
My husband shops with me, because if people crowd me, I panic. He knows this and becomes my block.
He stands back 3 or 4 feet from me in a check out line, I stand at the front of the cart, we don’t crowd the person in front of us, and he protects me from those that crowd behind us.
If I’m looking at something and get crowded, I can step back, walk to an area that is more open and he’ll bring it to ME, so that I can look at it. Otherwise I panic and can’t think straight.
That helps so much!

As for noise, insanity, craziness around me, I do have to work very hard to cope.
I work in a fast paced, loud, busy, unpredictable job. One that is physically and mentally demanding in so many ways.
It’s not easy.
It took me YEARS to tune out the sound of beeping IV fluid pumps until I could get to them. It used to be, when I was working on an emergency… if a pump started beeping, it completely distracted me until I fixed it.
I struggled with conditioning myself to recognize when that noise requires immediate attention and when it can wait until I have finished what I was working on.
Very, very difficult.
Lots of practice. I would let it beep while I was fixing it, instead of hitting the silence button, it helped condition my brain that the beeping was OK, until I fixed it and that it could become background noise until I could get to it.
It now becomes a continuous reminder in the BACK of my brain, until I get to it.

Desensitizing…. I took lessons from my own years of dog training. Difficult, but… NOT impossible for us!

Good Luck to All of Us!

April 30, 2012 at 2:54 pm
(52) Tara says:

Yes, I have that – beeping noises in stores, flashing lights, some noises, as a kid I used to really watch out for spiders, I forgot about the fabric one. I’ve always had to have all cotton even since a kid 5O/50 blend would itch to no end.
I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I’ve also been diagnosed with TMJ which the loud noises makes me feel weird pressure in my jaw and has sometimes given me migraine-like symptoms.
I’ve also had a psychologist I see tell me I probably have PSTD too! I am more hyper alert when I hear someone coming from another room for example. I can see and am aware that I probably do have PSTD. Some of it’s from childhood. Although no professional has said, I believe I also have PSTD from the events that led to chronic pain and also from the terrible pain itself that I found myself in when it first started.
What helps me is acupuncture, more effective if an acupuncturist uses tacs that I keep on points for several days after treatment. Also Alexander Technique helps a lot. I want to try EFT, just need to check into finding someone here who does it.

May 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm
(53) Alberta says:

I have a phobia with rodents. Bright lights bother me, loud noises, loud people or more than one person talking at once will throw me into a tizzy, and I can’t concentrate at all during those times. Certain smells will throw me into coughing fits, and yes I am a fibromite.

May 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm
(54) kimber says:

I’ve had fibro for about 5 years now and I’ve noticed that while I was always afraid of heights, it’s worsening and the claustrophobia is new. I avoid shopping on Saturdays unless I can get going around 8 am because the lights are overwhelming enough let alone the crowds. I tried shopping at a new store and was completely disoriented because it was new. I just gave up trying to find everything I needed. I think part of that is related to the exhaustion, it’s very difficult to cope when it takes all of your energy just to move about.

May 5, 2012 at 4:55 am
(55) Aidan Walsh says:

I read a very good blog arcticle from ‘BRETT NEWCOMB HYPERVIGALANCE’…I agree with hypervigilance but still believe firmly that a persistent infection is invovled and fibro/cfs/gwi illness with possible multiple infections that must be completely illiminated prior to any diagnosis.Can the study that is underway in Detroit, Michigan at Wayne State University be the key to the missing link, it is likely the cause…Alpha radiation uranium depletions causing breakage to chromosones and translocation…

May 5, 2012 at 5:08 am
(56) Aidan Walsh says:

‘Conspiracy blood test in Gulf War Vets’…Discovery Channel parts 1 to 5…see blood results parts4 & 5 on utube…They have now recieved $900,000.00 grant from the Department of Defense plus $133,000.00 grant from Gail Kansky of The National C.F.I.D.S. Foundation…press release Dec. 1ST 2011 Maybe now this research will shed the full truth on why we are actually sick and shut the phycobabblers up once and for all and let criminal public hearings be brought to the courts and compensation…Gail Kansky was also responsible for funding The University of Hawaii on the ciguatara epitope assay…Is this latest research the missing link in ciguatara? highly likely…Sincerely Aidan Walsh Southampton, U.K.

May 16, 2012 at 11:11 am
(57) Joan Hart says:

I just found this site today and what a relief to know I’m not the only person who is super aware of things that bother me. I am extremely afraid of worms, especially caterpillars, and i watch for them constantly whenever I venture outside. My family can’t believe i can spot a caterpillar all the way across my yard, and I still have mental pictues of any worms I have encountered throughout my lifetime, including the one which fell from a tree into my lap when i was on a see-saw in a public park in elementary school 58 years ago. I too dread August now since the last 2 Augusts my yard has been invaded by caterpillars from the Hickory tree outside my door and they are everywhere on my porch and between my porch and car and I carry an umbrella when i go out because they fall from the tree. BTW, I write a weekly column for our local newspaper and my column which will appear today is on Fibromyalgia Awareness Month.

May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm
(58) bridget says:

diagnosed with both fibro and chronic fatique 2 years ago although have had alot of the symptoms for about 10 yrs. do you find that even though the sensory noises are very hard to deal with (also thank god for my husband being with me) and very audible to me, that there are alot of times i have problems with hearing what people are saying or my brain is not registering right away what is being said to me. Thus people think that I am not listening or paying attention when i really am.Is this normal with our diagnosis?(i have been tested and my hearing is perfect according to the ENT doc).

June 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm
(59) morningglory121463@gmail.com says:

I definately am hpervigilaint!!… but if I pay attention to my stress,it helps me keep it under control.I believe being in that state for to long caused the fibro to show up!!!

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March 7, 2013 at 12:03 am
(61) terrycadymt says:

Thanks so much for this research! Though I haven’t been diagnosed with PTSD, I have had fibro probably since I was born. I have always been extremely sensitive to sounds. People I know can’t believe I can recognize who’s approaching by the sound of their steps. It also made me a great receptionist as I could recognize a voiced I heard briefly 6 months previously.
I associate “hypervigilance” as a fear or preparation to being attacked. Most of my life, I couldn’t bear to sit somewhere with my back exposed, but needed to have my back against a wall or booth. That has gotten better as I became disabled and now am not spending 8 hours a day in public. I shop in a small grocery, I don’t go to public venues where there will be a lot of people, and I never turn my tv up past 10 (my brother turns the volume up to 63, which I can hear in the next county). I envy those of you who have supportive husbands and boyfriends, but I don’t think I could live with anyone else again.

June 3, 2013 at 8:33 am
(62) Kelly says:

This explains so well what happens to my husband who has fibromyalgia and does deal with PTSD. It takes a lot of patience and retraining of the mind as both at the same time are really frustrating for him. Some days he wins and some days he doesn’t. The most important factor is to have persons in your life who understand this situation and how it affects you. We work through it but it it frustrating to have others tell him, oh you will get used to it. He has come a long way with so much but in flare all that just goes out the window so to speak. Thank you for explaining this so very well.

July 3, 2013 at 7:11 pm
(63) Marcia says:

I believe this is in Lyme disease patients and especially persistent lyme infections as well.

November 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm
(64) esther marygold says:

man does this explain a lot about me. i contribute it to an abusive step father for 24 yrs. finally got out of it at age 25. but the damage has been done. repairing it has and will continuously be a major struggle

November 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm
(65) Cathy says:

since my diagnosis of FM and CFS I started also having panic attacks. I am very hyper-vigilant in certain situations and places. This was not the case prior to my diagnosis. This article only supports what I have already determined was the case with me. If nothing else, this article is certainly thought provoking. :-)

November 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm
(66) Teresa says:

I would like to thank you for posting this info on hyper vigilance . I am so relieved to know that I am not going crazy! I put off going to the stores for weeks because the lights, noise, people bumping me and touching me, and even my clothes, put my body into such an irritated and stressed out state that when I finally get home, I go straight to bed and I am usually in and out of bed for at least a week, maybe longer. It takes that long to recover. I have basically become housebound. Here I can at least control my environment. I deal with Ménière’s Disease, Narcolepsy, Fibro, Chronic Fatigue, and DDD. Again, thank you for giving me a name for my symptoms and shedding a little light on what has become a terrible trial for me.

November 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm
(67) lyn says:

i do agree with this research as a child i was sexually abused and i would be very vigilant to movement of a particular person i do believe this has contributed to my fibro i am now hyper-vigilant to noises i know will cause me pain ie buzzing whistling and lighting flashing, and the blue headlights of some cars theses all cause pain i get cluster migraines and noise and lights are a contributing factor so i am aware of these things very quickly and i can see the conection between this and pain my whole body is on high alert constanly i dont get any resbite from this as even in silence i listening for the slightest noise and wake up instantly when i hear it

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February 24, 2014 at 8:12 pm
(69) Davey says:

It’s like watching pieces of a disparate jig-saw coming together autonomously, reading about FMS and Hyper-Vigilance/Anxiety!!! I figure I have been hyper-vigilant since childhood. Mother (single parent family) was often shouting and screaming (when things didn’t go right for her) that she was going to ‘Run Away’, and sometimes actually did, though not for extended periods of time – usually only for an hour or two. Though as a child (aged perhaps 3 to 11) I was very afraid she might and worried what would become of me. I was thus always trying to be ‘very good’ – compliant even. I should add that we lived in an environment where there were folk who wandered around our home at night, peeping in and generally making themselves obnoxious. I was also beaten up fairly regularly by neighbouring kids – largely I think, because we were ‘different’ as a family.
Between ages 3 and 7 an older girl cousin took an ‘interest’ in me sexually and regularly undressed and ‘fiddled with me’. It was only later in life that I linked that and my interest in similar activity/ies.
I’ve had increasing joint, neck and back pain, but put it down to my original occupation and inappropriate lifting/working in difficult positions. However, when I had an accident at work that involved me almost doing the splits on a wet/slippery floor, I was necessarily off work for six months with the most awful pain/s in my back/legs/neck/arms etc. My medication (analgesia and anti-inflammatories) were escalated over the period, and although, initially, some relief was given, within weeks I was back to square one. I saw any number of consultants and received as many diagnoses with various treatments, none of which generated a cure. I then read up on causes of such pain and found that most of my symptoms matched FMS.
Any thoughts about how I might, at my advanced age (70) learn to ignore these problems?
Sorry to have gone on so long.

February 24, 2014 at 8:21 pm
(70) Davey says:

I also suffer (now) from hearing loss – largely higher frequencies – and have severe tinnitus in my left ear … which when in noisy situations cause extreme pain and even greater confusion when it comes to trying to distinguish what people are saying to me. Bright light also causes pain, and (I think) because of the generalised pain throughout my body, I get chronic pains in my head. They’re not like the old style ‘thumping’ headache, but rather as if someone is either tightening a band around my head, or trying to split it open with an axe. When this is at its worst, I need to cover my head with a blanket (or duvet) and keep it warm until the pan subsides – often this will take several hours, and may last for days at a time. I have tried, as suggested at the hearing clinic where I received my hearing loss diagnosis, that I ‘encourage’ my family and friends to ‘speak toward me’ and to speak clearly. Ha – might as well tell the tide not to come in!
Enough. Just trying to see if anyone’s got any ideas about how better to cope? Any tricks I can learn?

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March 11, 2014 at 2:02 pm
(74) Lizzie says:

This has been very helpful – thank you. Hypervigilance is certainly a problem for me and has been for years. All the usual things, but noise particularly is a problem for me and I’ve recently noticed that the tail lights of cars are distressingly bright to me.

March 11, 2014 at 7:15 pm
(75) Suzette says:

I am very sensitive to loud or repetitive sound. If some one tosses their keys on the counter, or does not gently close a drawer I jump at the sound. My reactions to these are like fear and actually feel pain, I thought it was unusual and have talked to others who feel the same way.

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