Increased Alertness as a Symptom of Addiction

As a symptom of addiction, increased alertness is a state of being extremely sensitive to your surroundings, which can make you feel uncomfortable and suspicious at every sight and sound.  It is referred to as hypervigilance.

Alertness is often accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of normal behaviours, with the purpose of detecting specific, or supposedly suspicious, activities. It may also lead to an increased state of anxiety, which can result in exhaustion.

Increased alertness will make you feel like you are always in danger, which most of the time is completely unrealistic. A person suffering from hypervigilance is always scanning, and is constantly suspicious of the environment, and is on constant watch for sights, people, sounds, smells, behaviours, or anything else that they can perceive to be a threat or danger.

This can lead to different types of obsessive behaviours, including paranoia, making it difficult for them to interact with others.

The Signs of Increased Alertness (Hypervigilance)

  • The physical signs include sweating, a fast heart rate, fast and shallow breathing, fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Behavioural symptoms include overreacting to loud noises and misunderstanding statements as having rude intentions.
  • Emotional symptoms: increased and severe anxiety, fear, panic and persistent worrying.
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When to See a Doctor for Increased Alertness

Though there are other causes of increased alertness, substance addiction can be a major factor. The patient becomes excessively aware of their environment, seeing everything as a threat. They can become afraid of being judged, as they themselves often judge others harshly. They may also have a black and white thinking mentality, where they find everything to be either absolutely wrong or absolutely right.

You should seek the help of an expert immediately if you notice that you or a loved one are exhibiting any signs of increased alertness. There could be other factors causing it.

Increased alertness can also be a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A doctor will find out if you have had any traumatic incidents that might have increased your stress levels.  The doctor will then recommend treatment to help you recover.

Anxiety can be another cause of increased alertness. When you are overly anxious, you may suffer hypervigilance. The doctor will, again, examine your history, and recommend treatment. Anxiety can be a result of substance abuse or addiction. A gambler may become increasingly anxious after losing a huge amount of money. This could lead to depression or a situation where they suspect everyone else as the cause of their loss.

Call for help immediately if you notice that your loved one is gradually withdrawing socially, and spending more time alone, but is not willing to speak to anyone about exactly why. Watch out for signs that may involve aggression, abrupt replies, or misunderstanding everyday words and behaviours. They may see every word you speak as a threat, including harmless jokes.

The long-term effect of increased alertness is developing behaviours which are highly dangerous to your everyday life. The best option is to try and calm your anxiety or counteract perceived threats. Don’t suffer, or allow your loved one to suffer, alone and get help immediately after you notice any of the previously mentioned signs.

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