Common reactions to trauma

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After a traumatic event, it is common to experience a range of reactions. These might include:

Feelings of sadness/depression

It is common to:

  • Experience feelings of hopelessness and despair.
  • Have thoughts of suicide.
  • Have an altered perception of yourself (e.g., I am a bad person).
  • Lose interest in once pleasurable activities.

Feeling a loss of control or trust

It can be common to feel as though the traumatic event has left you with a lack of control, or as though you cannot trust anyone.

Feelings of anger

Sometimes you might find yourself experiencing anger and even directing it towards your loved ones.

Feelings of guilt and shame

These feelings are a common reaction to trauma survival.

You might find yourself second-guessing your reactions or blaming yourself.

Re-experiencing the event

This includes:

  • Flashbacks – feeling the trauma is re-occurring.
  • Intrusive thoughts – memories that you can’t control.
  • Nightmares about the event.

Physical arousal

This includes difficulty falling asleep or an interrupted sleep, irritability, finding it hard to concentrate, getting startled easily or feeling constantly on edge, sweating or a racing heartbeat.

Avoidance reactions

You may find yourself avoiding all reminders of the trauma (e.g., places, people) or even the memories of, and feelings associated with the traumatic experience itself.

Although these reactions can be overwhelming and distressing, it is important to remember they are a normal response when someone has experienced a traumatic event.

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