Learning How to Recover After a Traumatic Event

image for article on marital stress Traumatic events expose our vulnerability. They can happen on a large scale, transforming a community, a state, or a nation. Tragedies like wars and natural disasters affect people throughout the world. Trauma can also happen on a smaller scale—a mugging, a car accident, an assault. What these events have in common is that—in addition to physical injuries—they create extreme psychological stress. Even people who observed the event, without experiencing it first-hand, can show signs of distress.

Common Reactions to Traumatic Events

The organization Mental Health America highlights that people differ in how they react to a traumatic event. For example, you may feel more fearful and anxious than your neighbor who’s gone through the same experience. While reactions vary from person to person, there are some typical symptoms that many go through:
  • Emotions—You may feel disbelief about the event, afraid, nervous, anxious about the future, depressed, angry, guilty, and/or ashamed.
  • Behaviors—You may have difficulty sleeping and have nightmares, not be hungry or eat more than usual, cry easily, argue and get into fights, drink more alcohol, use drugs, smoke more, not want to do your daily routine, and/or have a hard time working.
  • Thoughts—You may have a hard time making decisions and concentrating, have reoccurring thoughts about the event (anything can trigger these thoughts, such as something you see, smell, or hear).
  • Physical symptoms—You may have headaches, backaches, stomach aches, cold or flu symptoms, rashes, nausea, dizziness, and/or fatigue.
These reactions typically fade over time. It may take several weeks or months before you feel like your life is normal again.

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