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Dealing With A Traumatic Event Stress Reactions To Crisis Events

Coping with Traumatic Events

You have been involved in a critical event. For some people, this experience can cause unusually strong emotional reactions. Some people report almost no reaction to a critical event, while others report a variety of physical, emotional and social responses. These may appear a few hours or a few days after the incident and in some cases, weeks or months later. You may find yourself faced with feelings unlike those you have previously experienced. These feelings may come and go and vary in intensity. Their duration will depend largely on the severity of the critical event and it's significance to you. It is important that you realize that these are normal reactions to an abnormal event.

The following are possible reactions that you may experience after a traumatic incident has occurred.

Physical Symptoms That You May Experience

  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Upset Stomach/Nausea
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Nightmares/ Flashbacks
  • Sexual Problems
  • Tenseness
  • Tremors/Shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Fatigue/Loss of Energy
  • Muscle Aches

Emotional Reactions

  • Fear/Anxiety
  • Depression/Grief
  • Confusion
  • Shocked/Dazed
  • Easily Startled
  • Feeling Numb
  • Inability to Concentrate or Memory Lapses
  • Avoidance of Situations That are Reminders of the Incident
  • Guilt/Blaming Yourself
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Emotional Exhaustion/Withdrawal from Family and Friends
  • Feeling Lost/Abandoned
  • Moodiness, Irritability
  • Re-experiencing the Incident Repeatedly in Your Mind
  • Difficulty in Solving Problems or Making Decisions, Feeling Overwhelmed

Helping Yourself

There is no "right" or "wrong" way to react or to feel as a victim. Many others who have been victimized feel the same things as you do now. You are not alone and you are not crazy! It is important to talk about what you have experienced and how you feel about it with concerned family members and friends or a counselor or an Employee Assistance Counselor. Getting help from a professional does not imply craziness or weakness. It simply means that the particular event was too powerful to handle alone.

Things to do to take care of yourself:

  • Realize you have experienced something out of the ordinary and are in need of extra special TLC for a while.
  • Eat well balanced and regular meals (even when you don't feel like it). Avoid junk food, sugar and coffee.
  • Resist the urge to take drugs or alcohol in order to "escape." This generally leads to feeling more depressed in the long run.
  • Surround yourself with people who care about you. Don't hesitate to ask someone to spend time with you.
  • Talk about your feelings. Sharing your experience with others can help you put the incident in perspective.
  • Maintain as normal a schedule as possible.
  • Record your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Writing helps work through your feelings. It also provides a record of your progress.
  • Take time to relax, listen to music, read a book. Alternate with periods of physical activity.
  • Avoid making impulsive decisions, such as resigning from your job, until you have worked through the crisis. Realize that this is not a good time to make major life decisions - if you must, seek help and support from a trusted friend or relative.


What Happened was NOT Your Fault!

Getting Support From Others

Lean on your coworkers and family members for support. Coworkers can help you work through the aftermath of the incident because they share your daily experiences at work and have also experienced some of the trauma of the incident. It is important to share your feelings with them and rely on them for mutual support. Your family members can help by being sensitive to your moods and assisting you to again feel comfortable at work and at home. It may help if you share this brochure with them. Engaging your family and coworkers support often makes recovery from trauma easier and faster.

Dealing With the Media

You do not have to talk to the media if you choose not to. If you choose to speak to the media, you should select the time and place for an interview - it should be at your convenience - not the media's. (If the incident occurred at work, check your employer's policy regarding statements to the media).


Updated February 20, 2015