"A severe wound caused by a sudden physical injury; an emotional shock causing lasting and substantial damage to a person's psychological development" (Webster's 1988). Over the course of a lifetime many people will experience or witness a traumatic event. Traumas can consist of a single event (accident, assault or natural disaster) or can be ongoing (physical, sexual or emotional abuse). There also appear to be a range of reactions including;
- Intense emotion and reactivity: Anxiety, pain, fear, shame, grief, horror, anger and shock.
- Numbness: Detachment from people and one's own feelings as a self-protective measure.
- Cognitive Impairments: Difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, decreased interest in everyday activities and hopelessness.
- Flashbacks: Re-experiencing the traumatic event over and over. Not feeling in control of intrusive thoughts or memories.
- Nightmares: Re-experiencing traumatic events through dreams. Can severely impact quality of sleep and mood.
- Avoidance: Avoiding people, places and reminders of anything associated with the traumatic event.
- Physical symptoms: Headaches, fatigue, panic symptoms (palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath?), appetite changes, increased startle response and potential for increased substance abuse.
- What you are feeling is normal. Allow yourself time to adjust to new feelings.
- Reach out to friends and family who can be supportive. Spend time with others despite the instinct to withdraw.
- Talk. Talking can help reduce some of the anxious feelings and intense emotions.
- Maintain structure in your life. Keeping schedules, staying active, planning, and lists can help refocus your energy.
- Get involved. Join groups; look for ways to help others.
- Ask for help when your reactions or feelings continue to interfere with your daily functioning or social life.