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Coping With a Traumatic Event

Information for the Public (see also Information for Health Professionals)

Highlights

  • Traumatic events often cause feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and agression.
  • It will take time before you start to feel better.
  • There are many things you can do to cope with traumatic events, including talking to family, friends, and clergy for support.
  • You may need to consider seeking professional help if you feel sad or depressed for more than two weeks, or if you are not able to take care of your family or do your job.

A traumatic event turns your world upside down.

After surviving a disaster or act of violence, people may feel dazed or even numb. They may also feel sad, helpless, or anxious. In spite of the tragedy, some people just feel happy to be alive.

It is not unusual to have bad memories or dreams. You may avoid places or people that remind you of the disaster. You might have trouble sleeping, eating, or paying attention. Many people have short tempers and get angry easily.

These are all normal reactions to stress.

It will take time before you start to feel better.

You may have strong feelings right away. Or you may not notice a change until much later, after the crisis is over. Stress can change how you act with your friends and family. It will take time for you to feel better and for your life to return to normal. Give yourself time to heal.

These steps may help you feel better.

A traumatic event disrupts your life. There is no simple fix to make things better right away. But there are actions that can help you, your family, and your community heal. Try to:

  • Follow a normal routine as much as possible.
  • Eat healthy meals. Be careful not to skip meals or to overeat.
  • Exercise and stay active.
  • Help other people in your community as a volunteer. Stay busy.
  • Accept help from family, friends, co-workers, or clergy. Talk about your feelings with them.
  • Limit your time around the sights and sounds of what happened. Don’t dwell on TV, radio, or newspaper reports on the tragedy.

Sometimes the stress can be too much to handle alone.

Ask for help if you:

  • Are not able to take care of yourself or your children.
  • Are not able to do your job.
  • Use alcohol or drugs to get away from your problems.
  • Feel sad or depressed for more than two weeks
  • Think about suicide.

If you or someone you know is having trouble dealing with the tragedy, ask for help. Talk to a counselor, your doctor, or community organization, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).


 

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