Am I Normal? Reactions to Overwhelming Stressful Events
Most people have some reaction to a traumatic event, such as the death or near death of a friend, classmate, or someone you know; being physically or sexually abused; or other overwhelming situations.
These experiences may affect your ability to function and take care of yourself. Everyone's reaction is different and based on personal experiences. It may take a while to have a reaction, and sometimes you may not feel a reaction at all. People often don't realize they are reacting. Sometimes feelings are triggered by having something similar happen at a later time.
Reactions to death or near death can include:
- Physical reactions
- Emotional reactions
- Changes in behavior
- Increased risk taking
Common physical reactions to overwhelming events are:
- Feeling stressed
- Feeling anxious
- Trouble concentrating
- Increase in risk-taking
- Change in appetite (loss of appetite/change in eating behaviors)
- Sleep problems (too much or too little)
- Increase in use of alcohol or drugs
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability/feeling numb
- Re-enacting the event over and over in your mind
What can I do to feel better?
- Get involved in activities that you can start and finish in one day
- Eat healthy foods, drink water, and get physical exercise
- Talk openly with a friend or person you trust about your feelings
- Spend time doing things you enjoy, even if this is hard
- Support a friend – this is remarkably healing
- Listen to music you think is positive
- Adequate sleep (adolescents need 9-10 hrs. every night)
When do I need to get additional help?
- If you continue to have trouble functioning normally for weeks or months after the events
- When you have a friend who has these reactions and is not getting better
- When you have thoughts of harming or killing yourself or someone else
- When you feel like the reactions are running your life
- If you are feeling overwhelmed or out of control
- When you are not taking care of yourself
Where can I get help?
- Parent, friend (who is not overwhelmed), or relative: ___________________
- Others (who would you put in?): ____________________________________
- School counselor or nurse: _______________________________
- Pastor or another adult you trust: ___________________________________
- Counseling services: ____________________________________________
- Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)