The elementary school shooting in Texas this week has left our nation heartbroken, grieving, and scared. People are trying to make sense of all of this with little to no answers available as to why such a tragedy once again has happened. When we hear and see details of a violent tragedy our body and brain can respond in a variety of ways.
What is secondary trauma?
Secondary trauma is when we experience trauma and life-threatening events indirectly from news, hearing stories, seeing images, etc. However, our brains respond to the indirect threat similar to how we would respond to a direct threat. When people experience a direct threat they are at risk of experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some ways people respond to direct and indirect trauma include the following:
Problems with concentration
Exaggerated startle response
Intrusive distressing memories or images
Recurrent distressing dreams or flashbacks
Marked physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic event(s)
Avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts feelings associated with the traumatic event(s)
Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world
Persistent negative emotions (i.e., fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame)
Feelings of detachment
Persistent inability to experience positive emotions (feeling numb).
Irritable or aggressive behavior
Reckless or self-destructive behavior
If you or a loved one are experiencing some of these try increasing self-care and reach out to your therapist to schedule sessions to process and find ways to cope during this traumatic time. You can find self-care tips at:
By Jennifer Wilmoth, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist