Typical Reactions to Trauma
Not everyone experiences the same set of responses to trauma, but people typically experience reactions that fall into four basic categories. Here are some reactions that you may be experiencing:
Psychological and Emotional
You may recognize yourself experiencing some of the above reactions. Remember that your response is normal. Immediately following a traumatic event you will probably feel disrupted, dazed, and somewhat confused. You will notice that you are not behaving as you typically would. It is important to take care of yourself as best you can. Here are some self-care suggestions for you:
Keep reminding yourself that your responses are normal responses to a stressful situation. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Your body and mind will tell you what you need to do -- your job is to listen to them.
Get plenty of rest when you're tired, and use the energy you have if you experience hyperactivity at times. Don't force yourself to be active if you don't have the energy; rest, when you feel tired.
Talk to people as much as you need to. Reach out. You may experience a need to talk repetitively about the trauma. If you can find someone who is willing to listen, use her/him to talk to about how you are feeling. If you do not have anyone in your support network to use, consider calling a crisis line, going to a crisis center, or using other community resources they are there to help you.
Spend time with others, even if you don't feel like talking. It can be very comforting to know you're not alone. Try to find someone or someplace that feels safe and comforting to you, and spend time there.
Don't make any major life decisions or big life changes if at all possible. This is not a time to put pressure yourself to do anything out of the ordinary. Concentrate on taking care of yourself.
Do things that feel good to you; take baths, read, exercise, watch television, spend time with friends and family, fix yourself a special treat, or whatever else feels nurturing and self-caring.
Allow yourself to cry, rage, and express your feelings when you need to. Try not to numb your feelings with alcohol or drugs. This will only complicate your situation.
The Process of Recovery
It is important to know that recovering from trauma is a process that may take a long time. The initial response of disruption (perhaps alternating with numbness) may last days, weeks or longer. Don't be surprised if you continue to experience these reactions for longer than you expected. It is impossible to predict how long you will experience effects of the trauma, but usually trauma reactions gradually decrease over time. If you experience another stressful event while recovering from this trauma, you may find that your trauma reactions reappear for a while. This re-activation, or delayed trauma response, is perfectly normal.
At any time during this process, you may find it useful to ask for professional help from a counselor or mental health professional. There are some circumstances under which you should definitely get professional help:
Last Modified: February 11, 2005