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Fight-or-Flight: How to Spot Familiar Trauma Responses

Fight-or-Flight: How to Spot Familiar Trauma Responses.

Most people have heard of the “fight-or-flight” response when it comes to traumatic or frightening situations. Either you stand up and confront your fear, or you run away from it.

While these are two of the most common trauma responses, they aren’t the only ones. (*even beyond “freeze” and “faun” too)

Additionally, trauma responses can happen years after the actual trauma occurs. Someone who experienced a traumatic situation may still have the same reactions when triggered in a specific way.

How can you spot some familiar trauma responses? What should you do about it if you regularly experience them?

Recognizing the Signs

Other common responses to trauma include everything from avoidance to vigilance. Because these are such varied responses, it’s only natural to expect different behaviors and reactions to each one.

Understanding some of the most common signs can make it easier to recognize trauma in yourself or others.. That said, some of the most common responses include:

  • Shock or disbelief
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Withdrawl
  • Guilt

One could argue that all of these behaviors fall within the fight-or-flight category, though some are more extreme than others.

For example, if your response to trauma is guilt, you might “run away” or avoid reality to escape that guilt. If your response is anger, you may be more inclined to fight. Unfortunately, that may lead to reckless behaviors and unhealthy ways of coping.

It’s not always easy to spot these familiar signs in yourself. That’s especially true if you’ve been dealing with them for a long time, caused by something like childhood trauma. Understanding the various ways you might feel impacted can help you realize that you might need help working through those experiences.

Trauma Responses Aren’t Always What They Seem

It’s crucial to note that trauma responses are often misdiagnosed. That’s because they might “show up” as another type of mental health condition. Most commonly, they cause anxiety.

Someone who has experienced trauma in their life might struggle with symptoms of anxiety. That includes everything from fear and helplessness to physical signs like rapid breathing.

As a result, it’s critical to get to the underlying root of every mental health condition, especially anxiety and depression. Working through your responses will help with feelings of anxiety. It can also help you manage your symptoms even when you experience a triggering situation.

Why Are Trauma Responses So Important?

Why is it essential to spot familiar trauma responses? Because people respond to trauma in different ways. The more you understand about those various types of responses the easier it can be to recognize them sooner.

Issues like anxiety don’t often go away on their own. And, if you keep ignoring your trauma responses, likely, they won’t go away on their own either. Maybe you’ve been ignoring them without even realizing it. Whatever the case, if you’re dealing with any of these common responses, you’re not alone. Help is available.

If you experience any of the responses listed here or you feel like something is “off,” you could be dealing with the effects of trauma. Thankfully, you don’t have to go through those feelings forever.

Feel free to contact me to learn more about familiar trauma responses or to set up an appointment. Together, we can uncover your responses and what you can do to work through your trauma. That starts with identifying it and figuring out effective ways to manage your symptoms while bringing you into the present and looking toward the future.

Your trauma doesn’t define who you are, and acknowledging your experience(s) can help you realize that. Please reach out today or visit my page about law enforcement and stress to learn more about how I can help.

Categories
Critical Incidents

Critical Incident Stress

WHAT IS CRITICAL INCIDENT STRESS?

A critical incident (or traumatic event) is any event outside the usual realm human experience that is markedly distressing (elicits reactions of intense fear, helplessness, dread, panic, horror, etc.) Critical incident stress usually involve the perceived threat to one’s physical integrity/safety or the physical integrity/safety of someone else. Most of all, critical incidents are defined by their undermining of a person’s sense of safety, security and competency in the world.

The result, critical incident stress can be a form of psychiatric injury, also known as traumatic stress. Contrary to some misconceptions out there – a person’s internal fortitude does not prevent this from happening. It is extremely important to respond quickly to a critical incident. The sooner the intervention/response – the less likely more complicated problems such as panic attacks, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and similar anxiety spectrum disorders are to arise, as well as a host of other challenges.

Events That May Result In Critical Incident Stress

Individual/Personal
Automobile accident, or any accident involving serious injury and/or property damage
Industrial accidents involving serious injuries or fatalities
Sudden or unexpected death of a relative, friend or colleague
Sexual assault/abuse
Robbery and violent crimes
Domestic violence
Child abuse and/or injury or death of a child
Psychological/emotional abuse
Suicide or attempted suicide
Homicide(s)
Line of duty death or injury among emergency/law enforcement personnel
Any life threatening experience
Adverse/negative publicity
Observing or being aware of unethical acts
Observing any of the individual or community critical incidents

Community/World

  • Fires
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Multiple injury/fatality accidents
  • Large scale environmental pollution
  • Terrorism
  • Acts of war
  • Child related traumatic events
  • Homicides in the community
  • High publicity crimes of violence or sex
  • Community disasters
  • Being an emergency worker/first responder in critical incidents and disasters*
    • (*Peace Officers, Fire & Rescue, EMT, Triage Nurses & Military)

Point Of Fact:
You do not need to be directly involved to be negatively affected by a critical incident. Generally, the closer you are to the actual event and the people involved, the more severe the impact. However, television and news media coverage, especially excessive and/or graphic depictions, may serve to increase the likelihood of experiencing traumatic impact, especially anxiety and feelings of not being safe.

Traumatic Events, Critical Incident Stress and CISM

What are CISD and CISM?

Critical Traumatogenic Exposure and CISM Incident Stress Debriefings (CISDs) are a specific tool of Critical Incident Stress Management designed to help individuals, groups, or entire organizations cope with the often difficult, overwhelming and stressful emotions associated with critical incidents or traumatic events.

What Employers Should Know About CISM

CISDs helps mitigate post-traumatic symptoms, assess the need for follow-up, and often provides a sense of closure. If prompt trauma intervention is provided at the onset of the crisis, damaging long term effects can be minimized and employees will be better equipped to return to the daily work routine and productivity.

Professional Consulting/CISM for Traumatic Exposure and Critical Incident Stress

Professional consulting and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are not the same thing as psychotherapy or counseling. These are specialized, focused services that are used very specifically for individuals who have been involved in or exposed to unnatural events or conditions. Sometimes exposure occurs while fulfilling the duties of their profession, sometimes due to unforeseen accidents or disasters and even sometimes as a victim of an aggressive crime.

These services are not the same as therapy and in no way are they meant to replace therapy. These services are most effective when used as soon as possible after the event to help normalize the situation and prepare the individual for some other issues that may arise in the short term as a result. CISM is intended to be used promptly to reduce the risk of further distress and more detrimental outcomes later on such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Critical Incident Stress and Other Issues that may be addressed by CISM include;

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, Anxiety & Anger Problems, Stress Management, Traumatogenic Exposure, PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, Grief and Loss, Family Conflict, Significant Life-Change Adjustment, Work/Life Balance, Spiritual/Philosophical Conflicts and Substance Abuse/Dependence.

These services are typically used for :
First Responders
Peace Officers
Fire Department
Nurses
EMT
Hazardous Professions
Oil (Rig/Refinery) Professionals
Industrial Plant Professionals
Airline / Airport
Maritime / Off Shore
Railroad
Professional Environment
Death in the Workplace
Violence in the Workplace
Crisis Event in the Workplace
Victims & Survivors
Accidents
Aggressive/Assaultive Crime
Robbery/Random Crime
National Crisis
Natural Disaster

The Top 7 Reasons Your Company Should Use a Licensed and Experienced CISM;

The Top Reasons Your Company Should Use Critical Incident Stress Management
(What Every CEO, Human Resources Manager and Internal EAP Should Know About Critical Incident Stress Management.)

  1. Meet OSHA requirements for General Duty Clause 29 USC 1900 5(a) and for S.E.M.P. Compliance. (Structured Emergency Response Program)
  2. Provide Risk Management for adversarial situations and help decrease litigious responses.
  3. Help prevent job stress and burnout problems and worker injuries/errors and associated costs.
  4. Decrease bottom line expenses for employers. (Studies have shown realized savings of $7 for every $1 spent on CISM).
  5. Promotes employee wellness and decreases utilization of sick time and benefits.
  6. Stabilize crisis situations quickly & effectively when they do occur.
  7. The visible and appropriate action of a company taking care of its employees in a crisis.

Professional Consulting/CISM for Critical Incident Stress

Professional consulting and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are not the same thing as psychotherapy or counseling. These are specialized, focused services that are used very specifically for individuals who have been involved in or exposed to unnatural events or conditions. Sometimes exposure occurs while fulfilling the duties of their profession, sometimes due to unforeseen accidents or disasters and even sometimes as a victim of an aggressive crime.

These services are not the same as therapy and are in no way meant to replace therapy. These services are most effective when used as soon as possible after the event to help normalize the situation and prepare the individual for some other issues that may arise in the short term as a result. CISM is intended to be used promptly to reduce the risk of further distress and more detrimental outcomes later on such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

For Corporate CISM Services, please contact Ben Carrettin at (346)-493-6181

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.