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Understanding Secondary Trauma

Secondary trauma can occur when you see or hear about a traumatic event. Secondary trauma or vicarious trauma does not happen to you directly, but you feel its effects. You might have experienced secondary trauma when you watched the news reports after 9-11. More recently, many people were rightly disturbed in the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Katrina. People can even experience vicarious trauma from watching the news or graphic scenes in movies.People who work directly with trauma can also experience secondary trauma.

Nurses and physicians, emergency personnel, therapists, can all be deeply affected by what they see and hear.If you think you might have secondary trauma, look for these symptoms:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sadness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches or body aches
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Increase in addictive behaviors
  • Withdrawing from others
  • .Some people feel that developing secondary trauma is a sign of weakness. If you really care about others, trauma will affect you. It is normal to be affected by trauma.

    Graphic descriptions of victimization or suffering can leave lasting impressions on our hearts and minds.Although any of us can develop secondary trauma, people are more prone to secondary trauma if their lives are "out of balance." If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of secondary trauma, it is a good idea to look at your life in terms of balance. Do you have a good balance of work and play? Do you get enough social interaction and solitude? Are you exercising regularly? Do you spend sufficient time relaxing? Are you eating healthful meals most of the time?.The impact of secondary trauma can be reduced by talking with others.

    Reach out to a friend, co-worker, or family member. As in acute stress disorder and PTSD, therapists have special treatment modalities that can help reduce the impact of secondary trauma.If you find that you are bothered by news reports, you may want to go on a "news fast" and stop watching news, reading newspapers, etc. Give yourself the gift of unscheduled time and create space for peace and relaxation. Nurture intimate relationships with those who are important to you.

    It is important to make your own mental health a priority. Know your own limits. Often, in our desire to help others, we forget to help ourselves.

    2006 Cynthia McKenna LPC, NCC - All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

    .Cynthia McKenna LPC, NCC is a therapist and life-coach who helps people transform their lives. Her goal is to help people have more joy and peace in daily living. Cynthia works with individuals, couples, and groups in the Texas Hill Country.

    She also works with clients online and by phone. For more information or to make an appointment, visit Cynthia McKenna's website http://CynthiaMcKennaCounseling.com.

    By: Cynthia McKenna

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