What should I know about reactions to trauma?
After a person has experienced trauma, she may have many different reactions, such as:
- Going over the trauma again and again in her mind. While she is awake, she may keep remembering the terrible things that happened. At night she may dream about them or be unable to fall asleep because she is thinking about them.
- Feeling numb or feeling emotions less strongly than before. She may avoid people or places that remind her of the trauma.
- Becoming very watchful. If she is constantly looking out for danger, she may have difficulty relaxing and sleeping. She may overreact when startled.
- Feeling very angry or full of shame about what happened. If a person has survived a trauma where others died or were seriously injured, she may feel guilty that others suffered more than she did.
- Feeling separate and distant from other people.
- Having outbursts of strange or violent behavior, in which she is confused about where she is.
- People suffering from reactions to trauma may also feel anxious or depressed, or misuse alcohol or drugs.
Many of these signs are normal responses to a difficult situation. For example, it is normal to feel angry that a trauma has happened, or to be watchful if the situation is still dangerous. But if the signs are so severe that a person cannot carry out daily activities, or if the signs start months after the trauma has happened, the person may have a mental health problem.