Common Reactions to Trauma


There are as many responses to trauma as there are people who experience trauma! We are all different, have different histories, and experience events differently. Even whether an event is experienced as traumatic can vary from person to person or might impact the same individual differently at different times in their life. For example, a break-up might feel devastating at age 15 and only mildly upsetting at age 27.

Some common Reactions:

Physical ReactionsMental ReactionsEmotional ReactionsBehavioral Reactions
Nervous energy, jitters, muscle tensionChanges in the way you think about yourself, the world, and other peopleFear, inability to feel safeBecoming withdrawn or isolated from others
Upset stomachHeightened awareness of your surroundings (hypervigilance)Sadness, grief, depression, guilt, feeling chronically emptyEasily startled
Rapid heart rateLessened awareness, disconnection from yourself (dissociation)Intense or extreme feelings or vacillating back and forthBecoming confrontational and aggressive
DizzinessDifficulty concentratingInability to enjoy anythingAvoiding places or situations
Lack of energy, fatiguePoor attention or memory problemsLoss of trust, emotional distance from othersIncrease or decrease in sexual activity
Teeth grindingDifficulty making decisionsLoss of self-esteemChange in eating habits

Intrusive imagesFeeling helplessLoss or gain in weight

NightmaresNumbness, lack of feelingsRestlessness


Here is a list of reactions trauma survivors have shared:

devastation, feeling ripped apart, pain, terror, disgust, being on edge, helplessness, loss of control, feeling like i'm in a trance, wandering through a fog, overwhelmed, feel like garbage, guilt, rage, feel dirty, numbness, intimidation, suffering, fearful, wanting to die, feeling trapped, feeling like I'm gasping for air, loss of self-respect, shame, incompetence, confusion, determination, panic, disintegration, voicelessness, isolation...