Traumatic events and tragedies can occur at any time and may result in lasting psychological distress for survivors and witnesses. In light of recent events in Ottawa, and countless other tragedies that happen worldwide, it is necessary to gain a better understanding of trauma and the stress associated with it.
Coping with the stress, danger and grief of the situation are key. It is also important to consider long-term and psychological strain. An understanding of trauma symptoms can help you identify if you may be experiencing a traumatic reaction to a recent event.
Trauma symptoms include:
– Intrusive memories: Flashbacks, dreams, unwanted thoughts, intense emotional reaction to a memory of the event.
– Avoidance: Avoiding situations or discussions related to the event. Avoiding places which remind you of the situation.
– Emotional disturbances: Irritability, fearfulness, excessive anger, feelings of guilt or shame, enduring sadness, difficulty concentrating, excessive anxiety, disrupted sleep, changes in eating habits, engaging in poor coping such as excessive alcohol or drug use.
At times we all have some of these symptoms when we are under stress. The difference between a trauma reaction and regular stress is that there is a combination of many of these symptoms at one time and the symptoms aren’t getting any better after a few weeks.
Human nature proves to be resilient in the face of trauma and adversity, however in order to heal from a tragedy and improve your symptoms, it is necessary to process disturbing events. Social support, counselling and community prove to be indispensable resources in recovery from tragic events. Self-care may also assist with processing difficult emotions and addressing fears, anxiety and stress related to the traumatic event. Journaling, writing and other creative outlets can also be effective in the coping process.
It is important to monitor yourself and loved ones during these stressful times for symptoms of trauma. Children may be especially vulnerable and fearful during these times.
Article Written By: Stacie Courtney-Mustaphi, Bac.Soc.Sci, MA Candidate and Cassandra Petrella, MA, C.C.C.