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Normal Responses to Trauma

Trauma is an unfortunate, but unavoidable aspect of the human experience. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, witnessing and/or experiencing a traumatic event, or repeatedly hearing about one – 70 percent of adults experience at least one traumatic event throughout the course of their lives. And don’t be mistaken– trauma can mean a lot of things. It’s not just experiencing a life-threatening situation. It can also include events like a divorce, bullying, sexual assault and/or repeated exposure to the traumatic stories or experiences of others. As another anniversary of 9/11 has passed, it’s important to remember that anniversaries or any other reminders of traumatic events can resurface feelings associated with the event – no matter how recent or long ago. Thus, it’s essential we have compassion for ourselves in both the short and long-term.

You may be coping with traumatic events if you have commonalities with the list of experiences below:

  • Being unable to stop thinking about what happened
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, anger, shame or guilt
  • Irritability or having unexpected outbursts of anger
  • Extreme fatigue or restlessness
  • Feeling as if you are reliving trauma
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of detachment and/or emotional numbness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Physical aches and pains such as headache, nausea or back pain
  • Difficulty sleeping

These symptoms can be short-lived or occur over an extended time frame. In most cases, the symptoms tend to slowly dissipate the days or week following an event. But note, it’s not a linear process, there will likely be steps forward and back – and that’s normal. Be sure to put time and energy into taking care of yourself with some of these ideas:

  • Accept your feelings. Whether you are filled with shock, anger, guilt, sadness or a vacillation of all of the above – don’t be hard on yourself for what you are feeling. This is a normal part of our body’s trauma response.
  • Be patient. Ensure you are taking the time to eat healthy and exercise when you feel able to do so. It’s amazing how easy these things are to forget and how far it goes in the coping process.
  • Seek out support from friends, family, and/or others affected by the event (if applicable). If you are comfortable, share what you are thinking and feeling. If you are not quite ready, spending time with others doing “normal” things is healing in and of itself.
  • Find a support group after a traumatic event – whether amongst peers or in a professional setting.

Most importantly, it is essential to remember that there is no “right way” to feel after a traumatic experience. Just like a sprained ankle or broken bone, your symptoms will likely lessen over time in a gradual progression rather than all at once. If you find yourself feeling a bit (or totally) “off” following a traumatic event and this lasts for more than a few days or a week, reach out for support from your friends, family, and/or a counselor. Post Traumatic Stress is very treatable. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and willingness to better yourself. Traumatic experiences are not a part of everyday life, and you don’t need to, and shouldn’t, deal with them alone.



*If you need additional support, consider reaching out to request an appointment with one of our mental health care providers at Diversus Health today. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health crisis and need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255. 

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