Veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after witnessing or being involved in a traumatic incident during service may experience hypervigilance as a symptom of this mental condition. Hypervigilance causes a veteran to feel on “high alert” for dangers or threats they believe are real but often are not. When they have this heightened sense of arousal, a veteran can feel anxiety, have fight or flight responses, and feel they're in jeopardy. 

Symptoms of Hypervigilance

When an individual has feelings of hypervigilance, they might experience the following physical, behavioral, emotional, and mental symptoms:

  • Physical. These symptoms most closely resemble anxiety and can include sweating, a rapid heart rate, and shallow, quick breathing. Over an extended period of time, a veteran who remains in this constant state of readiness can be overcome with exhaustion.
  • Behavioral. These symptoms of hypervigilance include quick, automatic, knee-jerk type reactions. A person may have nervous, jittery reflexes and overreact to loud noises. Additionally, they might misperceive a comment from a friend or coworker, believing it was rude or inconsiderate. And because their immediate instinct is to defend themselves, they may respond violently or with hostility.
  • Emotional. Various emotional symptoms of hypervigilance can be extreme and harsh. Veterans often feel fear, panic, and constant worry, as well as concern that they’re being judged by others. Sometimes, they withdraw emotionally, experience mood swings, or have sudden outbursts of emotion that don’t fit the situation.
  • Mental. In general, the “processing protocol” is broken in the brain of someone who suffers from PTSD. Paranoia is a primary mental symptom of hypervigilance, along with excessive rationalizations of actions that aren’t logical or reasonable.

Symptoms of hypervigilanceThere are long-term symptoms of hypervigilance as well.

If someone is in a constant state of “alertness,” they may develop certain behaviors to quiet or oppose what they perceive are threats. If they believe they're in danger of assault, they might decide to carry a concealed weapon. If they suffer from social anxiety, they may use daydreaming to resist participating in conversations.

Call Cuddigan Law for Your PTSD Claim

The experienced veterans disability lawyers at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices veterans have made to protect this country. They understand that combat isn't easy, and veterans can suffer from physical injuries, as well as psychological traumas, including PTSD and the many symptoms that go with it, such as hypervigilance.

If you’re a veteran suffering from PTSD, we can help you obtain the disability benefits you need to care for yourself and your loved ones. If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our veterans disability lawyers have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska