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Coping With Traumatic Events

How do people respond to traumatic events?


A traumatic event is a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that can affect someone emotionally and physically. Traumatic events can include experiences such as natural disasters (such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods), acts of violence (such as assault, abuse, terror attacks, and mass shootings), and car crashes or other accidents.

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear is a part of the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, which helps us avoid or respond to potential danger. People may experience a range of reactions after trauma, including:

  • Feeling anxious, sad, or angry

  • Trouble concentrating and sleeping

  • Continually thinking about what happened

Most people will recover from these symptoms, and their reactions will lessen over time. Those who continue to experience symptoms may be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is important to seek professional help if symptoms do not improve over time or begin to interfere with daily life. Some signs that a person may need help include:

  • Worrying a lot or feeling very anxious, sad, or fearful

  • Crying often

  • Having trouble thinking clearly

  • Having frightening thoughts or flashbacks, reliving the experience

  • Feeling angry, resentful, or irritable

  • Having nightmares or difficulty sleeping

  • Avoiding places or people that bring back disturbing memories and responses

  • Becoming isolated from family and friends

Physical responses to trauma may also mean that a person needs help. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Having headaches

  • Having stomach pain and digestive issues

  • Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

  • Having a racing heart and sweating

  • Being very jumpy and easily startled

People who have a personal or family history of mental illness or substance use, who have had previous exposure to traumatic experiences, who face ongoing stress or trauma (such as abuse),

or who lack support from friends and family may be more likely to develop more severe symptoms and need additional help.

People who experience traumatic events also may experience panic disorder, depression, substance use, or suicidal thoughts. Treatment for these conditions can help with recovery after trauma.

What can I do to cope after a traumatic event?

Healthy ways of coping can help reduce stress and improve well-being. Here are some things you can do to help yourself:

  • Avoid the use of alcohol or drugs

  • Spend time with trusted friends and relatives who are supportive

  • Try to maintain routines for meals, exercise, and sleep

  • Engage in exercise, mindfulness, or other activities that help reduce stress

  • Set realistic goals and focus on what you can manage

Where can I learn more about coping with traumatic events?

Free brochures and shareable resources

  • Helping Children and Adolescents Cope With Traumatic Events: This fact sheet presents information on how children and adolescents respond to traumatic events and what family, friends, and trusted adults can do to help. Also available en español.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This brochure provides information about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including what it is, who develops PTSD, symptoms, treatment options, and how to find help for yourself or someone else who may have PTSD. Also available en español.

  • Digital Shareables on PTSD: These digital resources, including graphics and messages, can be used to spread the word about PTSD and help promote awareness and education in your community.

Federal resources

  • Caring for Children in a Disaster: This webpage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides fact sheets, articles, and other tools and resources on caring for children in disasters or emergency situations.

  • Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery: This webpage from SAMHSA offers behavioral health resources for communities and responders that help them prepare, respond, and recover from disasters.

  • Medications for PTSD: This webpage from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes effective medications for treating PTSD and considerations for evaluating treatment options.

  • National Center for PTSD: Part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, this website has information and resources for anyone interested in PTSD, including veterans, family, friends, researchers, and health care providers. The site offers videos, apps, online programs, and other tools to help people with PTSD and their loved ones.

  • PTSD (MedlinePlus – also en español)

  • Publications on Disaster Preparedness and Recovery: This webpage from SAMHSA lists publications and digital products on coping after a disaster, pandemic, or traumatic event.

The National Institute for Mental Health has an amazing database of useful information for people coping with Mental Health. Check them out – www. nimh.org. #coping #mentalhealth #PTSD #theiractions #gbdefender #guardianband #women #1in6 #metoo #BalanceTonPorc #instareporters #news #newapp #app #chat #trauma #talkaboutit #chataboutit #friends

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