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Friday, February 4, 2011

7 Tips for Reducing Effects of Secondary Trauma

In this modern age of technology, you are bombarded by images of traumatic events from around the world in real time. Events in Egypt, Chilean Mine Accident, Iraq War, Afghanistan War and 9/11 are streamed right onto your computer or into your living room. 

Whether you are aware of it or not subconsciously you are being deeply affected. These images and reporting produce strong emotions and alter your perceptions. The end result is your thinking is affected. You have thoughts like “why am I feelings such strong emotions when the event did not affect or involved me?" "All I did was watch what happened.”

Another issue is if you are have personally experienced an abusive or traumatic life event in your childhood and the memory of it has been buried, viewing a present catastrophic event live on TV can trigger images from your past buried in your subconscious to surface into your conscious mind. So now your perceptions, emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and reactions are being generated by your past traumatic events, not your present situations. So it is important that you learn about Secondary Post-traumatic Stress (PTS).

2 Types of Post-traumatic Stress

There are two types of Post-traumatic Stress. 

Type one is primary PTS where you are traumatized by an act that happens directly to you. 

Type two is secondary PTS where you are traumatized by witnessing the traumatic act that happens to someone else. Secondary symptoms have a powerful effect on your subconscious and could cause you to be dysfunctional without you knowing why. You question your symptoms and why they are happening because you never had any direct abuse or trauma happen to you that you remembered.

Secondary Post-traumatic Stress is an aftereffect of just witnessing a life-threatening event that happens to someone else. The resulting symptoms are indistinguishable from exposure to primary trauma experiences (when it directly happens to you).The results of experiencing Secondary Post-traumatic Stress symptoms are a normal response to only witnessing an overwhelming painful emotional experience. 

The symptoms that might be felt from experiencing secondary exposure to terrorizing images maybe anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, dissociative reactions, flashbacks, feeling of emptiness, feeling of loss, detachment from yourself, hypervigilance (heightened awareness), hypersensitivity, being hyper-emotional, impulsive, a need to isolate and of course depressed moods. You may also experience poor sleeping and eating patterns. 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms from past primary trauma events, your PTSD may very well be increased disproportionately higher by secondary exposure. It is important to know that what you are experiencing is a normal reaction. Understand that for every action (witnessing a traumatic event) there is an equal and opposite reaction (aftereffects). These aforementioned symptoms are the equal and opposite reaction.

Secondary Exposure can be trigger Old Buried Primary Traumas 

Another factor that may occur as a result of the secondary exposure to witnessing a traumatic event that happens to another person. Your reaction to the event may trigger other past buried memories of primary traumatic exposure that have remained inactive deep within you without you being conscious of it. If you are experiencing some or all of the symptoms listed above, then it might be the result of too much exposure to live traumatic media coverage (fires, robberies, tornadoes, floods...) and causing past recollections to surface.

It becomes so important for your physical health and emotional well being that you accept that what you are feeling is a normal response to what you saw. Give yourself permission to experience your strong sympathetic feelings for what the other person went through. 

7 Tips on how to reduce the horrible aftereffects of 
    witnessing abuse or trauma that happened to another 
    person and not to you:

1. Reduce exposure to the media.

2. Recognize that what is happening is not and did not happen 
    to you in the moment.

3. Resume normal activities.

4. Monitor your emotional reactions.

5. Nurture yourself. (Do not judge or second guess your emotions).

6. Give yourself permission to go through the grief. Witnessing 
    loss cause grief reactions in others.

7. Talk to another person about your feelings and reactions to 
    these ghastly events you witnessed as a way to appropriately
    vent, validate and normalize your emotions.

Click here for more information on secondary trauma
                         Coach Bill

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