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resources - dealing with CRITICAL INCIDENT STRESS

Critical Incident Stress
Coping through crisis
Good Directions to be your best
Dealing with holiday stress
After the Storm
Helping children grieve
Job Loss Stress
Understanding Grief
Stressed

Critical incident stress is caused by an event that can evoke unusually strong emotional reactions during or after a critical incident. Although the event may be over, you may now be experiencing or may later experience some strong emotional aftershocks. Don’t worry. It’s normal for us to react in a variety of ways.

 

Emotional aftershocks can appear immediately after the traumatic event or a few hours or a few days later. If not properly dealt with, aftershocks can appear weeks, months, or years later causing a variety of problems. The signs and symptoms of a stress reaction may last a few days, weeks, months or even longer depending on the severity of the event. With understanding and support from loved ones stress reactions usually pass more quickly.

 

Occasionally, traumatic events are so stressful that professional assistance may be necessary. The need for professional help does not mean one has a mental disorder or is emotionally weak. It simply indicates that the particular event was too powerful for people to manage by themselves. Following are common signs and signals of critical incident stress.

PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS

 

Chest pain

 Chills

Dizziness

Elevated blood pressure

 Fainting Fatigue

 Grinding of teeth

Headaches

Labored breathing

Muscle tremors

 

 

 

Nausea

Profuse sweating

 Rapid heart rate

Shock symptoms

 Thirst Twitches

Visual difficulties

Vomiting Weakness

 

COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS

 

Blaming someone,

Confusion,

Disorientation of time,

place or person Hyper vigilance,

Heightened or lowered alertness,

Increased or decreased

awareness of surroundings,

Intrusive images,

 

 

 

Nausea

Profuse sweating

Rapid heart rate

Shock symptoms

Thirst Twitches

Visual difficulties

Vomiting Weakness

     

EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS

 

Anxiety,

Agitation,

Apprehension,

Denial,

Depression,

Emotional shock,
Emotional outbursts,

Fear,

Feeling overwhelmed,
 

 

Guilt,

Grief,

Intense anger,

Irritability,

Loss of Emotional Control,

Panic,

Radical mood swings,

Inappropriate emotional,

 response.
 

 

BEHAVIORAL SYMPTOMS

 

Antisocial acts,

Change in social activity,

Change in speech patterns,

Change in usual communications,

Hyper alert to environment,

 

Erratic movements,

Inability to rest,

Increased alcohol
Consumption,

Intensified pacing,

Loss or increase of appetite,

Withdrawal.

 


 

     

Any of these symptoms may indicate the need for medical evaluation.
 
When in doubt, consult a physician.


 THINGS TO REMEMBER

  • It is recommended that as soon as possible you talk with a crisis interventionist.
  • Within the first 24 to 48 hours periods of appropriate physical exercise alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of your physical reactions.
  • Structure your time – keep busy.
  • You’re normal and having normal reactions. You’re not crazy.
  • Talk to a good friend about it. Talking it out is a great healing medicine.
  • Do not numb the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol. You don’t need to complicate your problem with a substance abuse problem. Reach out. People do care.
  • Try to maintain your normal schedule.
  • Spend time with others.
  • Help your co-workers as much as possible by sharing your feelings.
  • It’s okay to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
  • Keep a journal. Write your way through those sleepless hours.
  • Do things that feel good to you.
  • Realize other people are also under stress.
  • Don’t make big life changes or choices.
  • Do make as many daily decisions as possible which will give you a feeling of control over your life.  Get plenty of rest.
  • Reoccurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks are normal. Don’t try to fight them. They will decrease over time and become less painful.
  • Eat well-balanced and regular meals, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Recognize the fact that life will not be the same as before. A critical incident changes our life in ways we often cannot understand. Realize that you will learn how to live with a new normal.
     

FOR FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS

  • Listen carefully with compassion.
  • Spend time with the traumatized person.
  • Offer your assistance and a listening ear if they have not asked for help.
  • Admit that you do not understand what they are going through. You are just ‘there’ for support.
  • Reassure them they are safe.
  • Reassure them you will keep their words and emotions confidential.
  • Help them with everyday tasks.
  • Give them some private time.
  • Don’t take their anger or feelings personally.
  • Don’t tell them they are “lucky it wasn’t worse”. Instead, tell them you are sorry the traumatic event happened and you want to    understand and assist them.
  • Encourage them to meet with a crisis interventionist if they have not done so. This should occur within 24 to 72 hours. If such a meeting is not possible in that time frame, it is better to meet later than not at all.

 © 2002, Ron Richardson

 

   
 

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