Traumatic Stress in Depth

After experiencing a critical incident, individuals exhibit stress reactions in various ways. Reactions can be:

  • Cognitive (thinking) reactions
  •     Memory problems
  •     Loss of objectivity
  •     Time distortion
  •     Confusion
  •     Inability to concentrate
  •     Guilt
  •     Preoccupation with the event
  •     Inability to understand consequences of behaviour
  •     Recurring dreams or nightmares
  •     Body intrusions

Common emotional (or affective) reactions:

  • Shock, numbness, disbelief, and disconnection
  • Feeling high, heroic, or invulnerable
  • Feelings of gratefulness for being alive, relief, and euphoria
  • Feeling isolated, detached, lost or abandoned
  • Anxiety, irritability, anger, or resentment
  • Mood swings
  • Sadness and tearfulness
  • Despair and hopelessness

Common behavioural reactions:

  • Difficulty communicating
  • Decreased efficiency and effectiveness of activity
  • Outbursts of anger, increased conflict with others
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
  • Hyperactivity or inability to rest
  • Family conflict
  • Crying spells
  • Isolation or withdrawal
  • High risk behaviour
  • Separation anxiety

Common physical reactions:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Headaches, faintness, or dizziness
  • Feeling a “lump in the throat”
  • Exaggerated startle reaction
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Difficulty eating
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach aches
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Agitation
  • Worsening of health problems

Common spiritual reactions

  • Anger at God/Allah
  • Strengthening of faith
  • Newfound faith
  • Withdrawal from fait-based community