Common Responses To Trauma


Everyone experiences stress. It's a normal reaction to a traumatic event. But relentless stress can drain body and mind. Although it may be impossible to eliminate stress during a crisis, some techniques may help reduce it. These may help victims and families sleep and regain energy and strength and reduce blood pressure, depression and irritability.

Techniques for managing stress:

  • Body and mental relaxation
  • Positive thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Anger control
  • Time management
  • Exercise
  • Responsible assertiveness
  • Interpersonal relationships

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a psychological condition that may develop after someone experiences a life-threatening or horrifying situation, such as an unexpected death, severe injury or close call with death. PTSD victims find that they are unable to stop thinking about what happened to them. They may try to avoid people and places that remind them of the trauma or try to push all thoughts concerning the event out of their head.

Signs of PTSD:

  • Feeling hopeless about the future, numb, detached or unconcerned about others
  • Having trouble concentrating, indecisiveness
  • Jumpy or startled easily by sudden noises
  • On guard and constantly alert, difficulty relaxing
  • Having disturbing dreams/memories or flashbacks
  • Work or school problems


Those who suffer from depression feel down or sad the majority of the time, and often lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Having low energy, feeling tired, hopeless or desperate are common symptoms. A depressed person may think about hurting or killing themselves.

Self-blame, guilt, and shame

Often people take too much responsibility for something that happens, what they did or didn't do or feel guilty for surviving when others didn't. They may be unnecessarily overly critical of themselves following a trauma.

Suicidal ideation

Trauma can prompt a depressed person to think about hurting or killing themselves. If you believe someone is feeling suicidal, you should directly ask them. This will not put the idea in their head. If they have suicidal plans and the means to carry out those plans, and you feel you are unable to stop them, you should immediately contact a counselor or call 911. Remember, communication is the key to prevention. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Anger/Aggressive behavior

After a trauma, people often feel that the situation was unfair and are unable to comprehend why the event happened or why it happened to them. This can cause them to feel frustrated and angry. While anger is a natural and healthy emotion, intense anger and excessive aggressive behavior can cause numerous problems.

Alcohol/Drug abuse

Drinking and drug use is a common inappropriate way people cope with trauma. This may be a quick fix, but it can lead to other problems. Alcohol and drug use provide temporary numbness, but no solutions.