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  2. Healing Power of Groups
  3. Why Nickname your Illness?

Coping with Trauma

The after-effects of Violence, Natural Disasters and 9/11 will not go away over night

We all have encountered a stressful event outside of the realm of usual human experience. As a victim/survivor of this type of stress, you can expect to experience the after effects to varying degrees. This handout and the resources listed at the end, are designed to help you understand your reactions, and help you cope with the emotions that are stirred up by the recent tragedies. Whenever there is a trauma, tragedy or natural disaster it has ripple effects throughout the community, your family and loved ones. Acknowledging these emotional reactions helps to shorten recovery time and prevent complications through the natural healing process.

Expected Emotional Reactions

  • Feelings: Sad, scared, angry, irritable, feeling numb, or confused
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions and thinking creatively
  • Feeling guilty that others have suffered more than you have
  • Recall of past traumas or losses
  • Fear of leaving loved ones or your home
  • Discomfort being alone
  • Disbelief
  • Flashbacks
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Increase or decrease of sexual drive
  • Minimizing the traumatic event
  • Forgetfulness
  • Cold-like symptoms
  • Sense that life is out of balance
  • Increase/decrease in appetite
  • Increased substance use
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Feelings of being "out of control"
  • Fears of "going crazy"
  • Loss of feeling secure in the world
  • Self doubt or change in self-confidence

Normal Reactions

  • Reactions can vary widely from one day to the next.
  • Don't be alarmed by the re-emergence of emotional feelings after days, weeks, or months
  • If you have kept yourself busy, you may find that you experience these reactions on a different timetable than others do.

NOTE: People with medical conditions, a history of trauma, physical abuse and war veterans may experience more intense reactions, flashbacks and other symptoms.

Taking care of Yourself

  • Don't push thoughts and memories of the event away, it is critical to talk about them.
  • Don't feel embarrassed about a repetitious need to talk to people.
  • Be compassionate of yourself: allow extra time to do usual tasks - you may be distracted and not be as efficient as usual.
  • Keep your life in balance, remember to:
    • Eat properly, get enough sleep and exercise
    • Balance your work with rest
    • Avoid new major projects in life
    • Keep a familiar routine with familiar people and surroundings

When to seek additional Help

Do not hesitate to make contact with trained counselors or clergy whenever the following events occur:

  • Whenever your normal sleep is significantly disrupted. If you are bothered by persistent sadness, irritability, or nervousness.
  • Call for help if you have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
  • Call if substance abuse increases.
  • Give yourself time to let the normal healing process unfold. If a gradual reduction in symptoms does not occur, call for further assistance.
  • When you or your family have any questions regarding what you are feeling.
  • If you notice any significant changes in normal family patterns.

Resources

  • Local community mental health centers, crisis lines and drop in clinics.
  • Because of their history, people with medical conditions, a history of trauma, physical abuse and war veterans may experience increased symptoms which will be eased by professional help.
  • Victims of Crime can receive assistance by calling (800) 877-8776

Links for Trauma Survivors

  • Information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, The Road to Resilience and other information of interest is available from American Psychological Help Center.
  • Trauma and Disaster Help is available through The American Group Psychotherapy Association which has resources available for clinicians and the public. Please see AGPA for information on response efforts, trauma resources and other information.
  • For help, call National Crisis Resource Center, 800-273-TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org which will direct you to a local resource center.
  • “Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disasters and other traumatic events.” This excellent article includes practical tips to help readers understand the normal stages of coping with traumatic stresses caused by natural disasters, terrorism, and includes a Post Traumatic Growth Inventory. To see this and other articles published by the Help Center created by the American Psychological Association.
  • “Anxiety and sadness may increase on anniversary of a traumatic event”. This short article includes an overview to help you understand typical “anniversary reactions” to significant losses and presents helpful coping strategies. To see this and other articles published by the Help Center created by the American Psychological Association.
  • For help, call National Crisis Resource Center, 800-273-TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org which will direct you to a local resource center.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline (24/7 phone and text) The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is "the first national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text 'TalkWithUs' to 66746) to residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or man-made disasters."
  • Recovering Emotionally: Advice from the Red Cross
  • Building Your Resilience: This helpful article define resilience and describes ways to improve coping skills and increase one's resilience. With appreciation to the American Psychological Association's Help Center.

Resources for those effected by Wildfire

The following articles and links offer advice from the American Psychological Association's Help Center and FEMA:

Resources for Clinicians working with Trauma in Groups

These resources are made available by the American Group Psychotherapy Association's specialists in group therapy with trauma survivors. It includes a listing of their Group Interventions for Treatment of Psychological Trauma.

Helping Children deal with Trauma

Disclaimer: This website is designed for educational purposes, and is not a substitute for professional medical or psychological care. If you require urgent medical or psychological services please consult a qualified professional in your area, or call 911.

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© Ann Steiner, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Reproduction without the author's written consent is prohibited.

Last Updated: April 6, 2016