Following a frightening or distressing event, it's normal to have strong reactions, whether physical, mental, emotional or behavioural.

This kind of trauma can be managed and it is possible to cope and recover. However, if you're still experiencing the above reactions after three to four weeks, seek professional help.

What's considered a traumatic experience?

According to Better Health Channel (BHC), this is any life event that causes a threat to a person's safety and as a result that person experiences high levels of emotional, psychological and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally in day-to-day life.

Some examples according to BHC are:

  • natural disasters, such as a bushfire or flood

  • being a victim of, or witness to, a crime, act of violence or armed robbery

  • being involved in, or witnessing, a serious car or transport accident

  • being in an airplane that is forced to make an emergency landing

  • being physically assaulted

  • being exposed to images, news reports or social media posts of these types of events.

What can reactions to trauma look like?

Every person will react to trauma differently. It's an individual experience.

However, some common reactions include:

  • Recurring feelings of anxiousness, stress, worry or that you're on 'high alert'

  • Feeling numb, emotionally

  • Feeling extremely fatigued and having disrupted sleep

  • Being protective, perhaps more so than usual, of your loved ones

  • Not wanting to leave your home, or a particular place, for fear of 'what might happen'.

  • Nausea and vomiting or change to appetite

  • Increased heart rate

  • Excessive sweating

  • Headaches

  • Impaired concentration and memory

  • Intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event

  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Replaying of the traumatic event over and over in your mind

  • Turning to substances such as alcohol

What are the next steps following a traumatic event?

You may find yourself asking yourself questions like, "How and why did this happen to me?" and/or "Why do I feel the way that I do?" among others.

Strategies to help resolve traumatic reactions can include:

  • Acknowledge what you've been through and that it's OK to have a reaction to it

  • Accept that you won't feel 'normal' for a little while, but that will pass

  • Remind yourself that you're managing day-to-day

  • Don't get angry with yourself for how you're feeling

  • Make time to socialise with friends and family and also to exercise and get outdoors

  • Gradually confront what happened with the traumatic event, don't block it out

  • Be open about your feelings, whether to a loved one or a health professional

  • If you feel exhausted, allow yourself time to rest

  • Read or listen to trauma and recover resources, such as the Better Health Channel's podcast which will give you valuable insights into coping with trauma, helping others who have experienced trauma and ways to move forward

When should you seek professional support?

As mentioned, if your reactions are lasting more than three to four weeks, it's best to reach out to a counsellor or psychologist.

It's crucial to do this, as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur in some people whose reactions are severe and prolonged.

If you think you may be experiencing PTSD, seek help from a health professional.


If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime, in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Article originally published by: Better Health Channel

Image credit: Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash, Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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