What Is A Traumatic Event?
Examples of traumatic events include:
- Assault or abuse experienced at any point in a person’s lifetime
- Car accidents
- Terrorist attacks
- Being the victim of bullying
- Natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes
- Serious physical illness
- Witnessing a death
Traumatic events may also be experienced indirectly, such as being the paramedic on duty or driving by the scene of the car accident. Family and friends of survivors may experience secondary trauma by hearing what happened to the survivor. Watching, hearing, or reading about the traumatic event on a news outlet may also affect people differently.
Common Reactions to Traumatic Events
Traumatic events can affect different people differently, although they all have in common that such an event is emotionally distressing. For some people, time and talking about what they have experienced or witnessed may help them to recover on their own.
Other people will develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Acute Stress Disorder (AST). Common responses to a traumatic event are :
- Emotional responses such as fear, a feeling of dread, numbing of the emotional senses, depressive feelings, anxiety, or panic attacks
- Behavioural responses such as changes in appetite, disruptions of the sleep pattern, lack of motivation for otherwise enjoyed activities
- Physical responses such as nausea, dizziness, or trembling sensations.
Shock, denial, and a sense of overwhelm are commonly associated with traumatic events. It’s a way for our brains to protect us from what we have just seen or witnessed.
The activation of the Fight-or-Flight Response, our body’s active defense response for threats, is another way our body protects us from the initial impacts.
This may lead to higher blood pressure, an increase in heart rate, and a feeling frequently describes as an adrenaline rush.
A Traumatic Event Shatters Our Belief System
When we experience or witness something traumatic, it can change how we see ourselves or the world around us.
Ordinary things of life, such as traveling from A to B or going to a public place, might change to not feeling safe. Sometimes the ability to differentiate fiction from fact may be altered, leaving the person to question their own sanity.
It might mean that a person no longer feels that there are in control of their own life’s or challenge the belief that people are generally good in nature.