(Understanding Your Response to Trauma (Part 2 of )….
What effects might I experience?
1) Reexperiencing the Trauma
- “flashbacks” or intrusive memories of the trauma: You may experience flashbacks in which you intensely relive the trauma, as if it were really happening again. You may feel all the same emotions and sensory experiences again. You do not lose consciousness during a flashback, but you may have difficulty distinguishing here-and-now reality when a flashback consumes you. This can be a frightening experience, especially since you may see, hear, smell, taste or feel things related to the past traumatic event that are not actually there in your current reality. This does not mean that you are “losing your mind.” Such flashbacks are an entirely normal part of the response to trauma as you struggle to rework and integrate the experience. If you had another traumatic experience years before this one, you may even find that sudden flashbacks about that previous experience get mixed up with flashbacks about your more recent traumatic experience.
- nightmares about the trauma or other scary content: You may have nightmares that vividly replay the traumatic event or that just replay fragments of your experience. You may have nightmares that repeatedly replay themes of helplessness, horror, anger, or other feelings related to the trauma. You may awaken very upset and sweating profusely, without remembering any nightmare.
- insomnia: You may often feel “too wired” to sleep. Your nightmares may be so alarming that you become fearful of sleep. You may associate darkness with danger. Being left alone with your own thoughts, without the distractions of your daytime activities, may prompt memories of the trauma which make it difficult to sleep. Coffee or alcohol may interfere with your sleep like never before. Persistent insomnia or awakenings during the night could also be a sign of developing depression which can be treated with medication.
- intense response to reminders or symbols of the trauma: You may experience sudden panic, irritability, anger, grief, horror or vague “sinking” feelings that sometimes seem to come “out of the blue.” Sometimes you may recognize at the time, or later, that your feelings are in response to a reminder of the trauma. Such reminders can be obvious or they can be so subtle that you may not easily recognize them as connected with the trauma. You may also experience strong feelings when faced with a monthly or annual anniversary of the traumatic event. You may find that, quite unpredictably, you dissolve under ordinary stress that you would usually take in stride. You might find that music is intolerable, that children’s behavior or noise is hard to take, or that you can’t watch television because the feelings come. (cont…..to page 3 of 8)