IS A TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE?
A traumatic experience is an
event in which an individual experiences, or
witnesses, an actual or threatened serious injury
or death. It is normal for people to experience
emotional and physical aftershocks or stress
reactions following a traumatic event. Sometimes
these aftershocks appear immediately after the
event. However, sometimes it takes a few hours,
days or even weeks before stress reactions appear.
An individual's response may include intense
fear, helplessness, or horror. Depending on
the severity of the event, the signs and symptoms
of these reactions may last a few days, several
weeks or months, or longer. The way an individual
copes with crisis depends on his or her own
history and prior experiences. Sometimes traumatic
events are so painful that professional assistance
may be necessary in order to cope with them.
WHAT IS CRISIS INTERVENTION?
Crisis intervention offers immediate,
intensive and brief professional assistance
to people who have had a traumatic experience.
The purpose is to help individuals cope and
return to a previous level of physical or emotional
functioning without being at risk of endangering
themselves or others. This short-term professional
support attempts to deal with the immediate
crisis or problem. Prompt and focused interventions
help prevent the development of a serious long-term
disability. Crisis intervention also encourages
the development of new coping skills to help
the individual function more effectively.
TYPES OF CRISES
People filter threatening experiences
through their own unique ways of thinking and
feeling. Depending on the trauma and one's "filter,"
some people may have less of a reaction while
others may develop more severe symptoms. A number
of crises may occur that can affect different
groups of people, such as students, employees,
or society as a whole. At one end of the continuum
these crises could include a strike, assault,
physical injury, accident, death, suicide, robbery,
homicide or rape. Other events that affect a
broader spectrum of people include fire, natural
disasters, riots, terrorism, and racial incidents.
Crisis intervention offers the immediate help
that an individual in crisis needs in order
to reestablish equilibrium.
People at risk for secondary
traumatization are those other than the actual
victims who are affected by the traumatic event.
This may include friends, family and acquaintances
of the victim, or people who have simply heard
about the trauma or crisis. People who help
trauma and crisis victims are sometimes at risk
for secondary trauma as well. This may be because
of consistent exposure to human suffering and
possibly feeling responsible for the safety
of the victim.
SYMPTOMS AND REACTIONS
People whose normal lives are
disturbed by a traumatic event find that their
sense of security and safety is shattered. They
also find that their responses to life and other
people are either greatly exaggerated or no
longer exist. The following are some of the
symptoms one may encounter:
Intense emotion and
reactivity: People may feel intense
anxiety, pain, fear, shame, grief, horror, anger
and shock. They may also have difficulty relaxing
or falling asleep.
When people are overwhelmed, they may experience
shock and protect themselves through detachment,
denial and disbelief. They may feel isolated
and disconnected from people or even from their
own normal feelings.
People may have difficulty concentrating or
remembering. They may also experience diminished
interest in everyday activities and have crying
spells. A sense of despair and hopelessness
may be very evident.
often re-experience the traumatic event over
and over again. The feeling of not having any
control is heightened. They may feel tortured
by the invading thoughts and memories.
are like flashbacks but they occur in dreams.
As a result, people may have difficulty sleeping.
Re-experiencing the trauma intensifies feelings
of panic and helplessness.
Triggering events and
people: Often, people will attempt
to avoid anything associated with the trauma.
However, events that remind them of the trauma
may trigger feelings initially triggered by
the trauma itself.
POSSIBLE PHYSICAL REACTIONS:
- Aches and pains such as headaches,
- Weakness, dizziness, and
fatigue most of the time.
- Heart palpitations, profuse
sweating and chills
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite and digestive
- Being easily startled by
noises and/or unexpected touch.
- Increased susceptibility
to allergies, colds, and illnesses.
- Increased alcohol consumption
and/or substance abuse.
HOW TO BETTER COPE
- Recognize your own feelings.
Also understand that your feelings are a normal
reaction to an abnormal situation.
- Talk about the experience.
Talk is healing.
- Reach out to friends and
family for support. Try to connect with others,
especially those who may have shared the same
stressful experience. Form a support group.
- Set small realistic goals
to help tackle obstacles. Take one day at
a time and be kind to yourself.
- Get as much physical activity
as possible. Exercise or learn relaxation
techniques or meditation in order to relax
and feel rejuvenated.
- Structure you time. Schedule
breaks for yourself. Redefine your priorities
and focus your energy on them.
- Get involved in something
that is personally meaningful and important
- Give yourself time to heal.
- Give someone a hug - touching
is very important.
HOW TO HELP FAMILY MEMBERS
AND FRIENDS COPE
- Listen and empathize. Be
supportive and non-judgmental.
Be flexible with roles and chores
- Offer and ask for support
from family, friends, and campus community.
- Respect a family member's
need for privacy and be more tolerant. Give
each other space.
- Set priorities and focus
your attention on them with other family members.
- Give yourself and your family
members time to heal at their own pace. Make
healing a family issue.
- Reassure children and the
elderly. Reinforce the feeling of safety.
- Validate each other. Show
appreciation, give hugs and offer praise.
- Use rituals that can reaffirm
family bonds and help the healing process
(e.g., leaving flowers at an accident site
or organizing a memorial service).
- After some time has elapsed,
focus and talk about how each person has changed
or grown as a result of the experience