How To Deal With Unexpected Traumatic Events
Psychological shock is when you experience a surge of strong emotions and a corresponding physical reaction, in response to a (typically unexpected) stressful or traumatic event.
It can be from a number of traumatic events, going through a breakup, experiencing the death of a loved one, witnessing something scary, or any other kind of event that can lead to feelings of fear, such as the discovery of a romance scam – especially when it ends quickly with threats of physical or other violence.
By thoroughly understanding this reaction before it happens, you’ll be able to recognize it and make much better decisions if/when it does. I’ll help you do that here.
Shock After The Trauma
However, psychological shock can also return when triggered long after the original traumatic event!
The types of events that can trigger psychological shock reactions include:
- A car accident or near-miss
- Ending a relationship unexpectedly
- Your child or a close family member having an accident or near-miss.
- Situations that provoke fear, including threats, but also things like being in an airplane with severe turbulence.
- Witnessing something scary or frightening
- Hearing a story that makes you feel traumatized again, such as learning of a death or that someone experienced trauma similar to your own
- Consuming an excessive number of news stories that provoke a trauma reaction
- Seeing photos that remind you of your original trauma
- Getting sued or some other financial-related stressor – especially if the financial situation was related to your original trauma
- Being stopped by the police or other interaction with authority
- Being at the dentist or other invasive medical procedure
Usually, your degree of reaction will depend on how close you are to the event, both physical proximity and connection to your original trauma. For example, hearing a friend’s child has died or been injured is more stressful than hearing that this has happened to a friend of a friend. However, even events that don’t personally affect you can trigger unexpectedly strong fear reactions.
Even reading about anxiety can induce feelings of anxiety—so, if you’re anxiety-prone, don’t be surprised if you experience some of these sensations as you’re learning about this here.
Symptoms of Psychological Shock
Shick is essentially a fight or flight emotional response, except that instead of a more normal reaction leading to either fight or flight, it induces shock or paralysis.
Typical Symptoms Of Psychological Shock?
- The major symptom of shock is feeling a surge of adrenalin
- You may feel jittery or physically sick like you’re going to vomit or have diarrhea
- Your mind will likely feel very foggy, or like you can’t think straight
- You may feel out of body or lightheaded
- Your chest may feel tight and your blood pressure may increase
- You may feel a disconnection from what’s happening like you’re watching a movie of events unfolding rather than actually being there
- You may feel intense anger and want to scream or yell
- You may feel like you want to run away
- You may also be frozen in place
When you feel a surge of adrenaline you may feel physically sick and find it hard to think straight. Your chest might feel tight, and you may experience a disconnection from what is actually happening—like watching a movie of events, compared to actually being there.
You could also be faced with moments where you want to scream or yell at the traumatic moment you are experiencing, as well as feeling like you want to run away. These symptoms are part of your fight or flight response. Your body is preparing to come up with a fast, instinctive reaction. Except because it is in shock, it may not be able to – you may be incapacitated or frozen in place, all the while the emotions are building up!
These symptoms are all part of the body’s acute fight, flight, or freeze response. Your body prepares you for fast, thoughtless action. For example, blood rushes to the muscles in your limbs ready for you to spring into activity; we tend to hyperventilate as well, which leads to the cognitive symptoms of feeling spacey and foggy.
What Is Adrenaline And What Does It Do To You?
Adrenaline, also called epinephrine, is a hormone released by your adrenal glands and some neurons. The adrenal glands are located at the top of each kidney. They are responsible for producing many hormones, including aldosterone, cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Adrenal glands are controlled by another gland called the pituitary gland.
The adrenal glands are divided into two parts: outer glands (adrenal cortex) and inner glands (adrenal medulla). The inner glands produce adrenaline.
Adrenaline is also known as the “fight-or-flight hormone.” It’s released in response to a stressful, exciting, dangerous, or threatening situation. Adrenaline helps your body react more quickly. It makes the heart beat faster, increases blood flow to the brain and muscles, and stimulates the body to make sugar to use for fuel.
When adrenaline is released suddenly, it’s often referred to as an Adrenaline Rush. This what can happen during psychological shock.
What to Do While in Psychological Shock
Unless quick action is absolutely necessary, try to take deep breaths and make yourself calm before you do anything.
You do not want to make poor decisions that you will regret later. If you do make decisions or take actions, be sure to review them after you are back under your control.
Since it’s hard to think straight when you’re in shock, you should give yourself a chance to calm down before acting. You may be tempted to make a poor decision regarding your scam. For example, you might feel tempted to confront the scammer, giving them an opportunity to make threats against you or your family; or this also opens you up to follow on scams, such as jumping into an investigator or money recovery scam.
Scam victims that are suffering from psychological shock can also develop or fall into other psychological problems, from Savior Syndrom to many others. Frequently when coming out of this state, scam victims feel compelled to take action (usually the wrong action) but any action will do – they just have to do something – labeling it as wanting revenge or seeking justice.
Victims may also feel like they need to fight with or challenge anyone that tries to help them! That urge is the victim’s fight reaction.
In a situation where you are triggered, recognize that you may find it very difficult to listen accurately and follow instructions, so take it slow. Don’t make any sudden movements or sudden actions. If someone is trying to help you take the time to repeat back any instructions as necessary and stay polite. Anger can quickly erupt and get out of control.
As an example of how victims in shock can get when feeling acute psychological stress, is that they are unable to follow the instructions from a police officer when filing a report. Or when interacting with a support professional, they can have difficulty understanding how support and recovery programs work. Then will react with anger and blame against those that are trying to help them. This is common for people in shock.
What to Do After Being in Psychological Shock
After each episode of psychological shock – either the original incident or later when triggered – it may take a few hours for your body to return back to normal.
Since you’ve got a surge of stress hormones released into your bloodstream, it’s going to take some time – try to be aware of this and take the time you need.
You may be in pain once the adrenaline surge wears off, as your muscles unconsciously tend to stiffen up because of your fight or flight responses, this can include intense headaches. When you have a shock reaction, you’ll typically unconsciously tense your muscles, ready to fight or flee. You probably don’t notice the pain of this when you’re in the midst of an adrenalin surge, but as the surge is wearing off, some pain sensations from doing that may emerge.
You may feel queasy or light-headed following an episode since it can affect your heart and blood pressure. If you feel this just remain seated until it passes, or if it does not call your emergency services and go to a hospital to be checked out since it can potentially trigger cardiac problems too.
Normally, you do not need to do anything else as you wait for your body to return to normal. Waiting to regain control of yourself when you are in shock will allow you to make smart decisions and avoid further problems. Unfortunately, few follow this advice.
Although psychological shock can feel intense, your body will only maintain this state for a short period. Humans are exceptionally good at coping with traumatic experiences.
By understanding what’s happening to your body and your thinking, it’s much less of a scary experience.
If you’re a parent, this is a great concept to teach your teenagers about. If you do, they’ll be more prepared to manage their emotions in a stressful situation. If you’re having a more sustained reaction to trauma, educate yourself about how to deal with your emotions and see a trauma counselor or therapist if necessary.
If you are looking for local trauma counselors please visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/trauma-and-ptsd