Work-Related Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is a state of increased alertness to the possibility of danger in the environment. Hyervigilance is generally associated with PTSD or anxiety; both which cause a person to perceive danger where none exists. But work-related hypervigilance (WHV) has recently been recognized as a contributing factor to chronic stress symptoms.

Research on WHV among RCMP members and security guards show that exhaustion, physical health symptoms, family conflict, sleep difficulties, and cynicism, are higher in those exposed to chronic WHV. Furthermore, those with jobs requiring chronic hypervigilance find it difficult to turn the hypervigilance off when not working.

Because of COVID, many jobs not previously considered dangerous, may now be perceived as life threating by some employees. This is particularly true for those who work in close contact with large amounts of people, and who themselves are at high risk for COVID complications. Understanding the impact of WHV can decrease self-blame and encourage those in perceived high-risk situations to seek support. Pro-active planning, education, support, and increased self-care can help mitigate the impact of chronic hyper-vigilance in the workplace.

Jenny DeReis, MC Psych, Walmsley, EFAP