After experiencing or witnessing a frightening or traumatic event it is common for people to experience strong physical feelings and emotions and/or to find that they are behaving differently. This may happen straight away or for some people it may be several weeks or months later that reactions occur. These are normal and for the majority of people they start to fade and settle down within a few months.”
The problem arises if emotional shock triggers previous life trauma, anxiety we already suffer, or if it evolves into a more serious mental health issue.
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SEVEN SIGNS YOU ARE SUFFERING EMOTIONAL SHOCK
1. You feel afraid.
Something has happened that you didn’t expect, weren’t prepared for, and couldn’t prevent happening. Suddenly, life feels dangerous and unpredictable. If you are already an anxiety sufferer, you might find yourself with anxiety attacks.
2. You cannot think straight.
You might feel as if your brain has turned to mush, or you have ‘brain fog‘.
Life might even feel unreal, as if you are disconnected and floating slightly outside of your body, watching yourself carry on doing things.
3. You are experiencing physical side effects.
When your brain decides that there is ‘danger’ around, it triggers the primal ‘fight, flight, or flight’ response. This sends a cocktail of chemicals and hormones through your body that can manifest as things like a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, and random aches and pains.
Sleep is often affected when we experience stressful things. Insomnia is common. Although for some people stress makes them sleep more than ever, even if perhaps it is a disturbed sleep, full of dreams.
5. You are all over the place.
When the mind is struggling to make sense of a difficult situation? It doesn’t leave much headspace to deal with everything else that needs our attention.
And the stress of a shock can make us illogic and emotional. In one moment we think,
“I am bigger than this” and we feel powerful. In the next we are lost to victim thinking, feeling sorry for ourselves and crying.
There can also be a cycle of guilt (it’s all my fault), shame (what will people think) and blame (I hate them for doing this to me).
6. You feel like – and are acting like – someone else entirely.
You could suffer a bit of a temporary personality change after a shock. If you are usually social, you might just want to be alone and hide out at home. Or if you are often the sort to take time out by yourself and be practical, you might find yourself going out every night, drinking when you usually don’t, or doing things like compulsive shopping.
7. Things just seem, well…. pointless.
When something happens that leaves us deeply upset, life can temporarily lose its meaning. We can have negative thoughts like, ‘Why bother, when everything is just going to go wrong?”.
WHEN WILL MY EMOTIONAL SHOCK STOP?
Traumatic experiences will interact with your personal vulnerabilities and previous difficult experiences.
This means you will have your own unique time line for getting over shock. If, for example, you already lost your job this year and now have had an accident that left you injured, you might take more time to feel better than someone who just had an injury.
So some people recover from emotional shock in several hours. Others in several days, some in several weeks. And for some, depending on what they go through, shock can even go on for six weeks or more.
Note that it is also possible to experience ‘delayed’ emotional shock. So you might think an event has not upset you, only to feel symptoms days or weeks later.
It’s months later and I STILL feel bad
Is it months after the fact, and you still are having symptoms like the above? And are your reactions to things bigger than logic? Do you find, for example, you are in an absolute rage over someone taking your parking spot, or crying just because a shopkeeper overcharged you?
It’s possible that you have developed acute stress disorder or even post-traumatic stress disorder. This can happen if your shocking experience triggered old, unresolved experiences, or was just simply too shocking for your exact brain to process.
The important thing with psychological shock is to be gentle with yourself and not judge yourself. There is not a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond to traumatic events, and we all deal with things differently and get better within our own timeline. What matters is that you allow yourself the time to heal, practise good self-care, and get support if you need it.
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