Tips for dealing with trauma
Common responses to disasters and
traumatic events include:
- Disbelief and shock
- Fear and anxiety about the future
- Disorientation, apathy and emotional numbing
- Irritability and anger
- Sadness and depression
- Feeling powerless
- Extreme hunger or lack of appetite
- Difficulty making decisions
- Crying for “no apparent reason”
- Headaches and stomach problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive drinking or drug use
Most of these reactions will decrease as time passes
and you focus attention on daily activities. Because everyone
experiences stress differently, don’t compare your
progress with others around you or judge other people’s
reactions and emotions.
What you can do
•Talk about it. Expressing your feelings will allow
you to be able to work through what happened. By
talking with others, you will relieve stress and realize
that other people share your reactions and feelings.
•Get plenty of rest and exercise. Remember to eat
well. Avoid excessive drinking and risk-taking activities.
•Spend time with your family. If you have any
children, encourage them to discuss their concerns and
feelings with you.
•As soon as it feels comfortable, go back to your
•Do things that you find relaxing and soothing.
•Recall other times you have experienced strong
emotions and how they were resolved.
•Do something positive that will help you gain a
greater sense of control (for example, give blood, take a
first aid class or donate food or clothing).
•If you feel overwhelmed by the disaster, ask for
help. It’s not a sign of weakness. Talk with a trusted
relative, friend, social worker, minister or rabbi.
If you have strong feelings that won’t go away or if
you are troubled for longer than four to six weeks, you
may want to seek professional help. People who have
existing mental health problems and those who have
survived past trauma may also want to check in with a
mental health care professional. Being unable to manage
your responses to the disaster and resume your regular
activities may be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD), a real and treatable illness. Help is available.
Mental Health America (formerly, the National
Mental Health Association) has several resources
available to help you and others cope with the disaster,
including Time for Reassurance, Talking with Kids, and
fact sheets on post-traumatic stress disorder, depression,
coping with loss and other topics. To obtain this information,
go to www.mentalhealthamerica.net or call our
toll-free line 800-969-NMHA (6642).
Contact Mental Health America of Illinois
(MHAI) for resources and more information at
312-368-9070 x10 or www.mhai.org