Common Trauma Reactions

Posted on October 21, 2013, in Grief and Trauma

Listed below are common reactions associated with trauma, this list is not exclusive. In the weeks following a trauma, or even years later, expect any of these reactions:

  • Distressing recollections or memories of the event, including images or thoughts that happen without warning at the strangest times.
  • Distressing dreams of the event or difficulty going to sleep for fear of having dreams about what happened.
  • Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring.
  • Intense distress from exposure to internal cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event (e.g. fear, anxiety).
  • Physical reactions and sensations upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event (e.g. nausea, difficulty breathing, faintness, fear, worry and hurt).
  • Trying to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma.
  • Trying to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma.
  • Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.
  • Diminished interest or participation in significant activities, personal relationships, school or work.
  • Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others.
  • Unable to experience pleasure, joy, or loving feelings.
  • Sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., do not expect to have a career, marriage, or children, or a normal life).
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger.
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering.
  • Hypervigilance - chronic state of fear/intense worry that something else is about to happen, constant state of alert.
  • Exaggerated startle response (e.g. jumpy, easily startled by sounds, sights, smells, or situations that remind you of what happened).

It is not unusual to experience some or all of these reactions during the weeks that follow a traumatic event. When the trauma is a disaster or other external event, reactions may be experienced even longer, especially when physical reminders of the trauma cannot be avoided or when the details of the incident are kept alive in the media for an extended period of time. If there is no appropriate intervention provided trauma reactions can last for years after the experience, or suddenly reappear years later.

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