A traumatic experience is an event, or a series of events, that is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or stability. Such an event can cause physical, emotional, social and/or cognitive reactions. After experiencing a traumatic situation, you may go through a wide range of responses. People react uniquely to trauma. The response you are experiencing is your own unique reaction to an abnormal event.

People are usually surprised that reactions to trauma can last longer than they expected. It may take a while to fully recover or heal, or to feel like yourself again. The support of family, friends, and other community members helps with this process. Some people also find that individual, group, or family counseling can be helpful.

Potential Immediate Reactions:

  • Shock, numbness
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Anxiety, worry, irritability
  • Grief, sadness, feelings of loss
  • Heightened perceptions
  • Intrusive thoughts and images
  • Fatigue, muscle tension
  • Self-blame, guilt
  • Shame, embarrassment
  • Courage, determination
  • Optimism
  • Inspiration to act/work for positive change
  • Gratitude
  • Alertness, increased energy
  • Increased faith or loss of faith
  • Social withdrawal or greater need for connectedness

Continuing Reactions May Include:

  • Being easily startled by noises or unexpected touch
  • Nightmares and flashbacks
  • Attempts to avoid anything associated with the trauma
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Hyper-alertness or hyper-vigilance, jumpiness
  • Emotional numbing or restricted range of feelings
  • Diminished interest in everyday activities
  • Feelings of helplessness or panic, feeling out of control
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Difficulty trusting and/or feelings of betrayal
  • Outbursts of anger or rage, emotional mood swings
  • Aches and pains - headaches, backaches, stomachaches
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Sudden sweating and/or heart palpitations (fluttering)
  • Changes in sleep patterns and/or interest in sex
  • Panic attacks, anxiety, or depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Conflict with others
  • Lack of motivation