Hypervigilance is an "enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats." It may feel like paranoia, but it is not the same. Also known as Hypervigilance Syndrome or HVS, it can be experienced while extremely irritated.


Hypervigilance is a symptom of a number of stress-related disorders including:

It is manifested in victims of domestic violence and stalking. It is also seen as an aspect of the psychological condition of codependence, and as needing treatment in victims of torture. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can also induce hyperactivity.

Hypervigilance versus paranoia


  1. "is a response to an external event (violence, accident, disaster, violation, intrusion, bullying, etc) and therefore an injury"
  2. "wears off (gets better), albeit slowly, when the person is out of and away from the situation which was the cause"
  3. "the hypervigilant person is acutely aware of their hypervigilance, and will easily articulate their fear, albeit using the incorrect but popularised word 'paranoia'"

While paranoia has similar, but different, symptoms including:

  1. "paranoia is a form of mental illness; the cause is thought to be internal, eg a minor variation in the balance of brain chemistry"
  2. "paranoia tends to endure and to not get better of its own accord"
  3. "the paranoiac will not admit to feeling paranoid, as they cannot see their paranoia"

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