A traumatic incident is an emotionally and physically shocking, frightening, or threatening experience that can affect anyone. It can be devastating to encounter natural disasters (such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods), acts of violence (such as robbery, rape, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings), traffic crashes and other accidents.
Warning Signs of Trauma
Trauma reactions may be immediate or deferred, brief or prolonged. Most individuals have strong reactions immediately after a traumatic incident and then several weeks or months after the fact. These responses can include:
- Feeling anxious, sad, or angry
- Trouble concentrating and sleeping
- Continually thinking about what happened
These are natural and expected responses and usually decrease over time.
In some cases, though, these responses persist for a more extended period and interfere with everyday life. If you continue to experience the following symptoms week after the traumatic event, it is vital to seek clinical support.
- Feeling nervous, depressed, or scared
- Confusion and difficulty focusing
- Getting terrifying ideas or reliving memories
- Feeling angry, resentful, or irritable
- Avoiding places or people that trigger disturbing memories
- Becoming estranged from family and friends
Children, adolescents and adults can have different responses than adults to trauma. Following symptoms are often seen in children less than six years of age:
- Wetting the bed
- Forgetting how to communicate or being unable to talk
- Acting out the frightening incidents
Similar to those seen in adults, older kids and teenagers are more likely to exhibit symptoms. They can also acquire behaviours that are disruptive, arrogant, or harmful. Older kids and teens may feel guilty for not preventing deaths or injuries.
Physical responses to trauma may also mean that an individual needs help. Physical symptoms may include:
- Stomach pain and digestive issues
- Feeling tired
- Racing heart and sweating
- Being very jumpy and easily startled
Coping with Trauma
Healthy ways of coping at this time include:
- Spending time with loved ones and supportive friends
- Trying to maintain everyday routine
- Staying active is one of the best ways to cope with stress
- Expect the symptoms to change progressively, not instantly
- Identify and seek out comforting situations and places.
Seeking professional therapy helps people come to terms with their trauma and transition to a better lifestyle. Different types of treatment may:
- Teach you about trauma and its effects
- Empower you to use relaxation and anger control skills
- Provide advice on healthy sleep, nutrition, and exercise habits
- Help you deal with guilt, shame, and other feelings about the event