There are a wide variety of positive reactions that survivors can experience during and immediately after a traumatic event.


Negative reactions may include:

■ Intrusive reactions

■ Distressing thoughts or images of the event while awake or dreaming

■ Upsetting emotional or physical reactions to reminders of the experience

■ Feeling like the experience is happening all over again (“flashback”)


Avoidance and withdrawal reactions may include:

■ Avoid talking, thinking, and having feelings about the traumatic event

■ Avoid reminders of the event (places and people connected to what happened)

■ Restricted emotions; feeling numb

■ Feelings of detachment and estrangement from others; social withdrawal

■ Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities


Physical arousal reactions may include:

■ Constantly being “on the lookout” for danger, startling easily, or being jumpy

■ Irritability or outbursts of anger, feeling “on edge”

■ Difficulty falling or staying asleep, problems concentrating or paying attention


Reactions to trauma and loss reminders may include:

■ Reactions to places, people, sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that are reminders of the disaster

■ Reminders can bring on distressing mental images, thoughts, and emotional/physical reactions

■ Common examples include: sudden loud noises, sirens, locations where the disaster occurred, seeing people with disabilities, funerals, anniversaries of the disaster, and television/radio news about the disaster


Positive changes in priorities, worldview, and expectations may include:

■ Enhanced appreciation that family and friends are precious and important

■ Meeting the challenge of addressing difficulties (by taking positive action steps, changing the focus of thoughts, using humour, acceptance)

■ Shifting expectations about what to expect from day to day and about what is considered a “good day”

■ Shifting priorities to focus more on quality time with family or friends

■ Increased commitment to self, family, friends, and spiritual/religious faith


What may help to deal with reactions:

■ Talking to another person for support or spending time with others

■ Engaging in positive distracting activities (sports, hobbies, reading)

■ Getting adequate rest and eating healthy meals

■ Trying to maintain a normal schedule

■ Scheduling pleasant activities

■ Taking breaks

■ Reminiscing about a loved one who has died

■ Focusing on something practical that you can do right now to manage the situation better

■ Using relaxation methods (breathing exercises, meditation, calming self-talk, soothing music)

■ Participating in a support group

■ Exercising in moderation

■ Keeping a journal

■ Seeking counselling


What may not help to deal with reactions:

■ Using alcohol or drugs to cope

■ Extreme withdrawal from family or friends

■ Overeating or failing to eat

■ Withdrawing from pleasant activities

■ Working too much

■ Violence or conflict

■ Doing risky things (driving recklessly, substance abuse, not taking adequate precautions)

■ Blaming others

■ Extreme avoidance of thinking or talking about the event or a death of a loved one

■ Not taking care of yourself

■ Excessive TV or computer games

For further information see: