Common Reactions in the Aftermath of a Traumatic Experience or Traumatic Event

Jan 30, 2020 | Trauma, Mental Health

The list below is intended to provide you an outline of some of the most common experiences that people have after living through a traumatic event. Some people experience all of these reactions, while others may experience only a few of these reactions.

Common reactions associated with trauma

  • Anxiety – During a traumatic event, our bodies frequently experience a rapid surge of adrenaline. This surge in adrenaline is a survival mechanism that helps us run, fight, or hide. Once the traumatic event has passed, it may take some time for the body to process the adrenaline and return to more normal levels. This excess adrenaline frequently results in feelings of anxiety and restlessness. As a result, a person who has experienced trauma may continue to feel like they are in danger long after the traumatic event has ended. They may also experience a surge in anxiety as they begin to process the traumatic events.
  • Numbness – A common reaction to trauma is emotional numbness or “going into shock.”  This automatic emotional detachment is another survival skill that helps many people initially cope with the intensity of the traumatic events.
  • Fear – People who experience trauma typically feel afraid for their lives. This fear doesn’t just disappear when the traumatic event has stopped. It may take some time for the fear to subside.
  • Sadness and Grief – Trauma frequently brings loss. This loss might include: Loss of a friend or loved one, loss of physical abilities, loss of security and safety, or loss of something or someone that we value. As a result of this loss, many people experience waves of sadness after the trauma.
  • Anger – Many people experience waves of anger after experiencing a traumatic event. This anger can at times be intense and may come as a person begins to process the trauma.
  • Guilt – Some people experience survivor’s guilt after a traumatic event. They may ask themselves questions such as: “Why didn’t I do something different?” or “Why am I alive and they aren’t?”When someone asks these types of questions, it is important to remind them that they didn’t cause the traumatic event, they just did what they had to do to survive it.
  • Disbelief – Many people who experience trauma say things such as: “I just can’t believe it” or “This has to be a nightmare and I’m going to wake up soon and this will all be gone. ”Disbelief is part of the numbness that frequently occurs with trauma. It takes time for us to process the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of trauma.
  • Sleeplessness – It is not unusual to have sleepless nights after experiencing trauma. As a person works through the trauma, their sleeping usually returns to normal.
  • Disturbing Images or Thoughts – As a person begins to think through the traumatic event, they may begin to remember specific images, sounds, feelings, or thoughts that occurred. It is important to work through these images so that they do not become “stuck” in the brain.
  • Thoughts of dying – Some people have thoughts of death or dying. These thoughts may reflect the underlying grief and loss or maybe a side-effect of the trauma. If you have these thoughts or feelings, make sure to get professional help.

If the above feelings and reactions linger, please seek professional help. Trauma does not have to define your life. Remember, it is the fact that you survived that allows you to overcome the trauma and begin the healing process.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.