I have often heard the question why do bad things happen to good people? As a matter of fact, I would have asked this question time and time again. Life is filled with so many difficult situations to process and understand; sometimes it feels like the trauma and pain is literally suffocating but even when we feel like simply giving up, there is that little resilient voice within us that tells us to keep pushing, keep fighting; cry if you must, stop if you must, but never give up.
Trauma refers to an event that threatens the life or integrity of the individual or a loved one, such as physical abuse, death of a loved one, witnessing/experiencing domestic violence, abandonment, natural disasters, war, community violence, or medical issues. Coming out of a traumatic event, a person experiences high levels of emotional, psychological, and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally in day-to-day life.
Reactions to trauma
The way a person reacts to trauma depends on many things, such as the type and severity of the traumatic event, the amount of available support for the person following the incident, other stressors currently being experienced in the person’s life, the existence of certain personality traits, natural levels of resilience, and whether the person has had any traumatic experiences before. Common reactions include a range of mental, emotional, physical and behavioural responses. These reactions are normal and, in most cases, they subside as a part of the body’s natural healing and recovery process.
Examples of common reactions to trauma are:
n Feeling as if you are in a state of ‘high alert’ and are ‘on watch’ for anything else that might happen.
n Feeling emotionally numb, as if in a state of ‘shock’.
n Becoming emotional and upset.
n Feeling extremely fatigued and tired.
n Feeling very stressed and/or anxious.
n Being very protective of others including family and friends.
n Not wanting to leave a particular place for fear of ‘what might happen’.
Children and young people can react to trauma very differently to adults, and often in surprising ways.
Mental reactions to trauma
Mental reactions to trauma include:
n Reduced concentration and memory.
n Intrusive thoughts about the event.
n Repeatedly playing parts of the event over in the mind
n confusion or disorientation.
Emotional reactions to trauma
Emotional reactions to trauma can include:
n Fear, anxiety and panic.
n Shock – difficulty believing in what has happened, feeling detached and confused.
n Feeling numb.
n Not wanting to connect with others or becoming withdrawn from those around you.
n Continuing alarm – feeling like the danger is still there or the event is continuing.
n Letdown – after the crisis is over, exhaustion may become obvious. Emotional reactions to the event are felt during the letdown phase, and include depression, avoidance, guilt, oversensitivity, and withdrawal.
We will conclude our look at post trauma recovery in next week’s column.