Emotional Reactions After a Traumatic Event

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, it’s normal to be overwhelmed by emotion. Feelings of fear, despair, distress, and anger are natural responses to living through a shocking, terrifying, or life-threatening experience. Though it can be difficult to readjust after a trauma, with proper self-care, many people improve gradually over time. However, others may develop more severe symptoms and need additional help from professionals to overcome them.

Common emotional reactions to trauma

Everyone responds to trauma differently. Some people have immediate reactions, while some don’t experience any effects until weeks, or even months, later. In general, some of the more common responses to traumatic events include:

  • Overwhelming emotion

It’s normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, or angry. If the trauma involved someone else’s death or injury, you may also feel guilt or shame about what happened.

  • Intrusive memories

These often take the form of nightmares or flashbacks, where the event replays in your brain repeatedly. Memories of trauma are often intense and vivid.

  • Avoidance

To counteract the powerful emotions and memories, you may find yourself avoiding anything to do with the event. This includes staying away from related people or places, and refraining from talking about it at all.

  • Mood changes

Many people will withdraw from regularly scheduled activities or social obligations as feelings of detachment and numbness creep in.

  • Physical symptoms

It’s possible to develop headaches or stomachaches in the period after a trauma, or to have difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

How to cope after a traumatic event

If you’ve been through a traumatic event, it’s imperative to practice self-care, and seek out help and support in a timely manner. This can ease your symptoms and help prevent more serious complications from arising.

Some things you can do to take care of yourself in the aftermath of a trauma include:

  • Exercise and eat right

Supplying your body with nutritious food gives you the energy you need to heal your mind. A regular exercise routine helps to stabilize your mood and provides an outlet for your emotions.

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs

Self-medicating can worsen symptoms in the long run and lead to significant consequences, including addiction.

  • Find a support group

Talking to other people who’ve gone through similar experiences can help you process your emotions and develop coping skills.

  • Be patient with yourself

Healing from trauma takes time. Don’t try to rush your recovery; give yourself a chance to gain some distance from the event.

When to seek professional help

Sometimes, it takes more than self-care and time to overcome the effects of a serious trauma. According to the nonprofit organization PTSD United, about 70% of American adults have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. Of those, about 20% will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Prolonged emotional reactions lasting more than a month

  • Feelings that intensify over time, rather than subside

  • Difficulty resuming normal activities

  • Inability to work or maintain relationships

  • Suicidal thoughts

If you’re experiencing any of the previous symptoms, it may be time to seek additional professional help.

Get treatment for PTSD at Alvarado Parkway Institute

At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we have extensive experience treating individuals with PTSD. We design custom treatment plans for all our patients, including psychotherapy, support groups, and if necessary, medication to alleviate symptoms. Our goal is to help you stabilize your emotions and get back to living a full, satisfying life, free of the fear and despair associated with PTSD.

Call our 24-hour crisis line at (619) 667-6125 and find out how we can help you get your life back.