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It is normal to have strong reactions following a traumatic event, but these should reduce after a few weeks.

Strong emotional and physical reactions are normal after a traumatic event; most of the time these begin to subside as part of the normal recovery process, in the same way that pain from an injury fades over time. A traumatic experience is any event in life that causes a threat to our safety and potentially places our own life or the lives of others at risk. As a result, a person experiences high levels of emotional, psychological, and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally in day-to-day life.

People can experience a variety of physical, mental, emotional and behavioural reactions. The way someone reacts to trauma depends on a lot of different things including the nature of the traumatic event, other stress being experienced, and exposure to previous trauma and how much practical and emotional support the person has.  

Strong emotional and physical reactions are normal after a traumatic event; most of the time these begin to subside as part of the normal recovery process, in the same way that pain from an injury fades over time.    A traumatic experience is any event in life that causes a threat to our safety and potentially places our own life or the lives of others at risk. As a result, a person experiences high levels of emotional, psychological, and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally in day-to-day life.

People can experience a variety of physical, mental, emotional and behavioural reactions. The way someone reacts to trauma depends on a lot of different things including the nature of the traumatic event, other stress being experienced, and exposure to previous trauma and how much practical and emotional support the person has.

Some examples of feelings you may have following a trauma include:

Feeling helpless or vulnerable… that you could do nothing to stop the event from happening 

Feeling angry… about what has happened and with whoever might hold some responsibility for events occurring (as you see it) 

Feeling ashamed or embarrassed… that you have these strong feelings that you can’t control, especially if you need others to support you and if you feel, due to your family or work role, that you should be the one supporting others 

Feeling detached and emotionally numb, as if in a state of ‘shock’; feeling confused; and not ‘you’ 

Feeling tired, fatigued or emotionally and physically exhausted 

Feeling you could have done differently (or better) in how you responded to the situation

Feeling as if you are in a state of ‘high alert’ and are ‘on watch’ for anything else that might happen

You may also find some changes in your behaviour including:

Being very protective of others including family and friends

Not wanting to leave a particular place for fear of ‘what might happen’.

Following a traumatic event it is common to experience “flashbacks” – these can be images, thoughts or experiences in which our mind takes us back to the traumatic event. This might involve misinterpreting things you see or hear, or seeing/hearing things that aren’t really there. This can sometimes feel like we are “reliving” the experience, or that it is happening all over again. This can be extremely difficult and adds to the distress you might already be experiencing. It can also be very common to experience vivid dreams or nightmares, as our brain is trying to process and make sense of the experience.

 

 

There are many things you can do to help cope with and recover from trauma.

  • Recognise that you have been through a distressing or frightening experience and that you will have a reaction to it.
  • Try to accept that you may not feel your normal self for a while, but that it can pass in time. 
  • Try not to get angry or frustrated with yourself if you are not able to do things as well as or efficiently as normal. 
  • Don’t bottle up your feelings. Talk to someone who can support and understand you. This might be a friend, relative or colleague.
  • Allow family and friends to help you by telling them what you need, such as time out or someone to talk to. 
  • Try to keep your normal routine as much as possible. Exercise can help, as can pleasurable activities such as spending time with friends.
  • If you notice that you have started to avoid certain things, try gradually building up to overcoming this at your own pace. If you feel particularly anxious at the thought of this, try practicing some relaxation and breathing exercises. A selection can be found here

If your feelings and reactions don’t begin to return to normal after a few weeks, you should seek some additional help.  Your own GP will be able to listen to what you are experiencing and help you access the best service or treatment for you.  It is also possible to refer yourself for talking therapy in most areas. You can find the nearest service to you by looking here.