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