Document Reactions of the Victim to Traumatizing Events

People who become victims of a stressful or life-threatening event or accident generally experience the event as an emotional shock. There are common reactions to this type of trauma or shock, but at the same time, each person reacts in a way that is unique to them.

Typical answers

You may find, if you have been a victim, that you have had, or are currently experiencing, some or all of the common reactions below. You will probably find that you have had, or are currently experiencing, different levels of intensity of some of these reactions.

1. The fear reaction: The most common reaction to a traumatic event is fear. At the point of entry into force the overwhelming experience is fear - the fear of being physically injured or even being killed. For many people, the fear response (to certain looks, sounds, smells, thoughts, etc.) associated with the event persists for weeks, months, or even years. People who have been exposed to trauma usually avoid anything that reminds them of the aggression (places, situations, people, etc.). Some people become so fearful that they restrict their activities considerably, to the point of not being able to leave their homes or be left alone.

2. Loss of Control: After experiencing a traumatic event, many people fear not to be safe losing control of their lives. They did not have control over their lives during the event, and this feeling of loss of control may then continue after the event.

3. Return of Flame: Victims can relive the event again and again in their thoughts and / or in their lives their dreams. When this happens, it's almost as if the event is happening again. This revival of the event is called a flashback.

4. Difficulty concentrating: Victims of traumatic events may find they have problems focusing on things. It's like they cannot focus on what they do. This can be frustrating and add to the feeling of loss of control.

5. Feelings of guilt: Guilt, if it exists, may be related to what the victim had to do to survive the stressful event or feel that the event could have been avoided if the victim had done things differently. Sometimes feelings of guilt arise from the fact that other people may have been seriously injured more than the victim herself. This is called the survivor's guilt.

6. Negative self-image: Self-image often suffers from stress or trauma event.

7. Depression: Another common reaction to trauma is a feeling of sadness, a feeling of "depression", or depression. The victim may feel desperate and hopeless, have frequent tears or even suicidal thoughts. A loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities and things often accompanies these feelings of sadness. Nothing seems to be fun anymore. This document was developed and written by: National Crime, The victims Research and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina.

8. Disturbed relationships: It is not unusual, after experiencing trauma, to see a disruption in relationships with others. This may be due, in part, to the withdrawal behavior that often accompanies sadness and depression. At the same time, the support of friends and family plays an important role in the recovery of the victim after the trauma of the event.

Some of these reactions are related to each other. For some people, having flashbacks, for example, can increase their fear of losing control of their lives and may even intensify their fear responses. In other words, the reactions to the trauma often interact with one another and may lead to an intensification of the overall reaction. Of these eight categories of reactions, fear is probably the most common and seems to be the most debilitating. That's why this paper focuses on this very normal and predictable response to trauma. We wish to emphasize that in fact, the eight reactions listed here are normal reactions to a traumatic event.

Fear and anxiety

Fear and anxiety are hard to distinguish from each other. In general, fear usually has a specific object (person, place, situation, etc.) that is identified as the object feared, anxiety (anxiety, malaise, distress, etc.), on the hand, is usually more wave. For example, weeks or even months after a traumatic event, it is not uncommon for victims to describe a general feeling of unease or nervousness - a feeling that something bad is going to happen.

Victims of trauma may experience both fear and anxiety. Long after the event, victims may continue to experience a fear response triggered by a number of trauma recalls. For example, the trigger, or stimulus, may be the situation or environment in which the event occurred. In other words, anything that reminds you of the trauma can serve as a trigger for the fear reaction. Places, situations, smells, etc. are often avoided because these stimuli remind the victim of the trauma and the suffering.

The physical reaction

People react to any kind of scary situation on three different levels: physical, mental, and behavioral. Our physical reactions are automatic; we have nothing to do consciously or intentionally. In the face of danger (or anything that we interpret as dangerous), our body reacts automatically. For example, our heart begins to pound, our blood pressure rises, we breathe faster and stronger, our muscles become tense, we can shake, or have redness or suddenly cold. These types of physical reactions are the result of a flow of adrenaline and are commonly referred to as "fight or flight" reactions. When we feel threatened, our body automatically prepares to fight the threatening object or to flee the threat.

Victims of trauma first felt this physical reaction to danger during the event itself. Weeks, months, even years later, the victim may experience a physical reaction similar to the memories of the trauma,

This document was developed and written by National Crime, the Rescue and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina.

The mental reaction

Sometimes it is not a physical reminder, but rather a thought or emotion, which triggers or stimulates a reaction of fear. Some people, places, things or circumstances can trigger these thoughts. Other times, thought simply enters the minds of the victims, apparently without clear stimulus. For example, many victims report that images of the event go through their head, even when they do not want to, or when they try not to think about it. This kind of experience of having a frightening thought "invade" their mind sometimes seems almost out of control and can certainly make it difficult to concentrate. This is in addition to the feeling many victims have of not having control of their own lives. In addition, many people may have nightmares or "night terrors" (in which they wake up crying but do not remember what they dreamed of) of the event. They feel that, even asleep, they are not immune to frightening thoughts. This kind of intrusive thoughts, images, and dreams can cause a victim to think that she is "going crazy" because she does not seem to be able to control her mind. It is very important to know that these reactions are not abnormal! Very stressful and traumatic events can often lead to such reactions.

The behavioral reaction

A third way in which trauma victims respond to the fear and anxiety associated with the traumatic event is at the level of behavior, where they attempt to control or avoid the fear response itself. In other words, they try to avoid the intense discomfort associated with the physical and mental aspects of fear and anxiety. They will go to great lengths to avoid people, places, things or situations that remind them of the event.

Again, the victim may feel that they have lost some control over their lives and, again, it is important to point out that these reactions are not abnormal.


These physical, mental and behavioral responses to fear and anxiety can occur separately; however, they often occur simultaneously and influence or interact with each other. For example, thoughts, flashbacks, or dreams (mental reactions) about the traumatic event usually cause physical reactions, such as rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and muscle tension.

These reactions, in tum, can lead to behaviors that help victims avoid the stimuli that triggered the mental and physical reactions. Typical reactions to a traumatic event are one or more of the following:
fear of reactions to reminders of the event, feelings of losing control of one's life or one's mind, reliving the event again and again by flashbacks, problems of concentration and concentration on the task at, hand sentiments of guilt, develop a negative image of self, depression, disturbances in close relationships

Fear and anxiety provoke physical, mental and behavioral responses, which can make the victim feel like they have no control over their lives.

More importantly, all of these reactions are normal reactions to the traumatic event you have experienced!

This was developed and written by: National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina

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