Traumatic stress

A traumatic event is something that a person can experience in both their private and personal life. Traumatic events are defined as any situation in which there is a serious fear of threat to the life or health of an individual or person close to them. These types of traumatic events have serious potential for causing psychological suffering. These are situations where we are confronted with death, or physical and mental suffering. Usually, such events are difficult to foresee. Therefore, when traumatic events occur, we usually say to ourselves: “it cannot be true”, "something like this cannot happen to us".

The occupational risk of experiencing traumatic events primarily relates to people working in emergency services (firefighters, physicians, nurses, paramedics, specialist rescue teams), police and correctional officers, prosecutors and soldiers. In these professions, people confront cruelty, severely injured victims of accidents and disasters, risk their own lives to help others, participate in actions that put them at risk of harm, work with dangerous or aggressive people.

However traumatic stress can also affect other professions, such as, production workers, teachers, shop assistants; when serious accidents, assaults, robberies, technological/natural disasters etc., are experienced.

Such events trigger a chain of psychological and physiological reactions, which are a normal response to highly threatening situations. 

Sometimes, however, the strength of this reaction is so profound that you need a specialist consultation (psychologist, psychiatrist), which aims to reduce the severity of your symptoms.

It usually seems to us that dreadful events could have been avoided, or we feel that they should not have happened to us. These events leave us with unpleasant and painful memories, anxiety and uncertainty.

For many people participating in traumatic events, the most difficult period is "getting out" of the threatening situation, when the worst is over and strong emotions are still felt. Everyone expects that we are alright - after all, we survived the worst - but we often still feel bad, and may try to hide it from other people, even our loved ones, for fear that what we are experiencing. Sometimes, we are just ashamed to ask others for help. If you have experienced a situation like this, or you know someone who has, the information and instructions provided here will help you to have a better understanding of the emerging reactions, you will also learn what to expect and what to do.

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The EMPOWER project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 848180