(Last Updated On: December 23, 2022)

Immediate and Delayed Reactions to TraumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS.

Understanding ScamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. Victim Trauma

Psychology of ScamsPsychology Of Scams Psychology Of Scams is the study of the psychological or emotional effects of scams or financial fraud on victims of these crimes. It helps victims to better understand the impact of scams on them personally or on others. To find the SCARS articles on the Psychology of Scams, use the search option to enter the term and find them. – A SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Insight

Trauma Plays A Massive Role In Romance Scam Victims

It influences or controls almost every aspect of a victim’s life until it is resolved or addressed.

Far too many victims (almost 60%) do not address their trauma, and as a result to not successfully recover or recover over a much longer period of time. The common belief in them is that we’re not affected or they can easily deal with it. Science and the history of trauma recovery, specifically in the case of scam victims prove this attitude to be wrong.

The Sequence of Trauma Reactions

SurvivorsSurvivor A Scam Survivor is a victim who has been able to fully accept the reality of their situation. That they were the victim of a crime and are not to blame. They are working on their emotional recovery and reduction of any trauma either on their own, through a qualified support organization, or through counseling or therapy. And has done their duty and reported the crime to their local police, national police, and on Anyscam.com’ immediate reactions in the aftermath of trauma are quite complicated and are affected by their own experiences, the accessibility of natural supports and healers, their coping and life skills and those of immediate family, and the responses of the larger community in which they live. Although reactions range in severity, even the most acute responses are natural responses to manage trauma— they are not a sign of psychopathology.

Coping styles vary from action-oriented to reflective and from emotionally expressive to reticent. Clinically, a response style is less important than the degree to which coping efforts successfully allow one to continue necessary activities, regulate emotions, sustain self-esteem, and maintain and enjoy interpersonal contacts.  The most recent psychological approaches emphasize respecting the individual’s style of coping and not valuing one type over another.

Trauma can affect one’s beliefs about the future via loss of hope, limited expectations about life, fear that life will end abruptly or early, or anticipation that normal life events won’t occur (e.g., access to education, ability to have a significant and committed relationship, good opportunities for work).

Initial reactions to trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, physical arousal, and blunted effect. Most responses are normal in that they affect most survivors and are socially acceptable, psychologically effective, and self-limited.

Indicators of more severe responses include continuous distress without periods of relative calm or rest, severe dissociation symptoms, and intense intrusive recollections that continue despite a return to safety.

Delayed responses to trauma can include persistent fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety focused on flashbacksFLASHBACKS A flashback is reexperiencing a previous traumatic experience as if it were actually happening in that moment. It includes reactions that often resemble the client’s reactions during the trauma. Flashback experiences are very brief and typically last only a few seconds, but the emotional aftereffects linger for hours or longer. Flashbacks are commonly initiated by a trigger, but not necessarily., depression, and avoidance of emotions, sensations, or activities that are associated with the trauma, even remotely.

The following outlines some common reactions:

Immediate Emotional Reactions

  • Numbness and detachment
  • Anxiety or severe fear
  • Guilt (including survivor guilt)
  • Exhilaration as a result of surviving
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Helplessness
  • Feeling unreal; depersonalization (e.g., feeling as if you are watching yourself)
  • Disorientation
  • Feeling out of control
  • DenialDenial Denial is a refusal or unwillingness to accept something or to accept reality. Refusal to admit the truth or reality of something, refusal to acknowledge something unpleasant; And as a term of Psychology: denial is a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.
  • Constriction of feelings
  • Feeling overwhelmed

Delayed Emotional Reactions

  • Irritability and/or hostility
  • Depression
  • Mood swings, instability
  • Anxiety (e.g., phobiaPhobia Phobias are one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that 8% of U.S. adults have some type of phobia. Women are more likely to experience phobias than men. Typical symptoms of phobias can include nausea, trembling, rapid heartbeat, feelings of unreality, and being preoccupied with the fear object. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) identifies three different categories of phobias: social phobias, agoraphobia, and specific phobias.1 When people talk about having a phobia of a specific object such as snakes, spiders, or needles, they are referring to a specific phobia., generalized anxiety)
  • Fear of trauma recurrence
  • Grief reactions
  • ShameShame Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self; withdrawal motivations; and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness.
  • Feelings of fragility and/or vulnerability
  • Emotional detachment from anything that requires emotional reactions (e.g., significant and/or family relationships, conversations about self, discussion of traumatic events or reactions to them)

Immediate Physical Reactions

  • Nausea and/or gastrointestinal distress
  • Sweating or shivering
  • Faintness
  • Muscle tremors or uncontrollable shaking
  • Elevated heartbeat, respiration, and blood pressure
  • Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
  • Greater startle responses
  • Depersonalization

Delayed Physical Reactions

  • Sleep disturbances, nightmares
  • SomatizationSOMATIZATION Somatization indicates a focus on bodily symptoms or dysfunctions to express emotional distress. Somatic symptoms are more likely to occur with individuals who have traumatic stress reactions, including PTSD. (e.g., increased focus on and worry about body aches and pains)
  • Appetite and digestive changes
  • Lowered resistance to colds and infection
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Elevated cortisol levels
  • HyperarousalHYPERAROUSAL A common symptom that arises from traumatic experiences is hyperarousal (also called hypervigilance). Hyperarousal is the body’s way of remaining prepared. It is characterized by sleep disturbances, muscle tension, and a lower threshold for startle responses and can persist years after trauma occurs. It is also one of the primary diagnostic criteria for PTSD.
  • Long-term health effects include heart, liver, autoimmune, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Immediate Cognitive Reactions

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rumination or racing thoughts (e.g., replaying the traumatic event over and over again)
  • Distortion of time and space (e.g., a traumatic event may be perceived as if it was happening in slow motion, or a few seconds can be perceived as minutes)
  • Memory problems (e.g., not being able to recall important aspects of the trauma)
  • Strong identification with victims

Delayed Cognitive Reactions

  • Intrusive memories or flashbacks
  • Reactivation of previous traumatic events
  • Self-blameSelf-Blame Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. SCARS seeks to mitigate the prejudice against victims and the perception that victims are in any way responsible for the actions of offenders or scammers. There is historical and current prejudice against the victims of domestic violence and sex crimes, such as the greater tendency to blame victims of rape than victims of robbery. Scam victims are often blamed by family & friends for the crime. Scam victims also engage in self-blame even though they are not to blame.
  • Preoccupation with event
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Magical thinking: belief that certain behaviors, including avoidant behaviorBehavior   Behavior / Behavioral Actions Otherwise known as habits, behavior or behavioral actions are strategies to help prevent online exploitation that target behavior, such as social engineering of victims. Changing your behavior is the ONLY effective means to reduce or prevent scams., will protect against future trauma
  • A belief that feelings or memories are dangerous
  • Generalization of triggersTRIGGERS A trigger is a stimulus that sets off a memory of a trauma or a specific portion of a traumatic experience. (e.g., a person who experiences a home invasion during the daytime may avoid being alone during the day)
  • Suicidal thinking

Immediate Behavioral Reactions

  • Startled reaction
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep and appetite disturbances
  • Difficulty expressing oneself
  • Argumentative behavior
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco
  • Withdrawal and apathy
  • Avoidant behaviors

Delayed Behavioral Reactions

  • Avoidance of event reminders
  • Social relationship disturbances
  • Decreased activity level
  • Engagement in high-risk behaviors
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs
  • Withdrawal

Immediate Existential Reactions

  • Intense use of prayer
  • Restoration of faith in the goodness of others (e.g., receiving help from others)
  • Loss of self-efficacy
  • Despair about humanity, particularly if the event was intentional
  • Immediate disruption of life assumptions (e.g., fairness, safety, goodness, predictability of life)

Delayed Existential Reactions

  • Questioning (e.g., “Why me?”)
  • Increased cynicism, disillusionment
  • Increased self-confidence (e.g., “If I can survive this, I can survive anything”)
  • Loss of purpose
  • Renewed faith
  • Hopelessness
  • Reestablishing priorities
  • Redefining meaning and importance of life
  • Reworking life’s assumptions to accommodate the trauma (e.g., taking a self-defense class to re-establish a sense of safety)


If you feel like you are experiencing any of the above symptoms after a romance scam, then it is advisable to speak to your doctor or therapist. However, it does not mean that everything is unhealthy for you. This article is intended as a summary allowing you to see if you recognize any of these responses to trauma, and allowing you to do further research on your own or discuss it with your mental healthcare professional.

If you have experienced trauma SCARS recommends that you find a local trauma counselor or therapist. We provide scam victim support groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers., but you are always best consulting a licensed certified trauma professional. This is all about your future happiness and recovery from this traumatic experience.

If you are looking for local trauma counselors please use the following resources to find one:


Briere & Scott, 2006b; Foa, Stein, & McFarlane, 2006; Pietrzak, Goldstein, Southwick, & Grant, 2011.
From: Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma

Trauma-InformedTrauma-Informed Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” A trauma-informed approach to care acknowledges that health care needs to have a complete picture of a patient’s life situation — past and present — in order to provide effective care services with a healing orientation. Adopting trauma-informed practices can potentially improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, and health outcomes. Care in Behavioral Health Services.
Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US).
Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental HealthMental health Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". According to WHO, mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health". Services Administration (US); 2014.
Copyright NoticeNCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

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