The most common initial reaction to a terrible event like an accident, serious assault, rape or natural disaster is generally relief that one survived. That tends to obscure the shock.
Left without support, the people involved in these incidents, and those who have assisted them, can experience profoundly disturbing reactions: flashbacks, unpredictable emotions, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches, stomach upsets, sweating, pounding heart or nausea.
While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychologists can help trauma victims find constructive ways of managing their emotions, enabling them to move forward in life.
Trauma may occur in two ways: either direct experience, where the survivor experiences a horrible incident or treatment, or second-hand experience such as hearing of or witnessing a traumatic incident.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can affect those who personally experience the catastrophe; those who witness it and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers and law-enforcement officers. Friends or family members who do not witness the event can also suffer.
PTSD develops differently depending on the individual. While the symptoms most often make their first appearance shortly after the event, they can sometimes lie dormant and appear even years later.
You should think about seeking help from a psychologist if your symptoms are still apparent after a few weeks, or they are interfering in your ability to go about your daily routine. It is also useful to seek help if you don’t have emotional support from other,s in order to help process the experience.