In light of recent events, namely the deadliest mass shooting in American history, many of us are feeling hopeless, depressed, anxious, and overall down. Though most of us were not at the scene in Orlando, it’s impossible to ignore all of the reports in the media, which is all around us, all of the time.
If you are feeling any of these negative emotions, it is normal. You may be experiencing symptoms of vicarious trauma.
What is Vicarious Trauma?
Vicarious trauma is the changes that occur in person who listens to traumatic events that have happened to another person.
Vicarious traumatization occurs when a caring person is exposed to information about the traumatization of another individual or group of individuals.
Symptoms of vicarious trauma include:
- Emotional numbness
- Feeling down or depressed
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- Less interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Increased anxiety about safety for yourself and loved ones
- Feeling more fatigued and/or irritable than before
Vicarious traumatization is not something to be taken lightly. Like other mental health disorders, there are ways to get help and cope with the symptoms of vicarious trauma.
Tips for Coping with Vicarious Trauma
Here are 3 solid tips for managing trauma when it’s experienced vicariously:
1) Take a break from those who don’t understand.
If you have never heard of vicarious trauma before, chances are others haven’t heard of it either. If a loved one does not understand what you are going through, try to step back from them until you feel ready to talk. You do not need to defend your feelings, and they may be unable to understand why you are feeling these things and they are not.
2) Enjoy yourself.
Do things that make you feel good. Keeping yourself busy will help distract you, and also boost your happiness. Does exercise make you feel good, or do you feel like you need to rest? Will volunteering for an organization related to the trauma make you feel both connected and good about yourself? Either way, knowing what makes you feel best will be helpful when coping with vicarious trauma.
3) Talk to someone.
If you are going through it, chances are someone else is feeling very similar. While it may be best to stay away from those who don’t understand, it is important to stay connected to others who can help you. Whether that is a loved one or a professional, such as a psychologist or social worker, it may be helpful to share how you are feeling and find a safe place to discuss it.
Vicarious trauma can cause painful emotions, and it is important to know what it is so that you can recognize it in yourself or loved ones. If you notice a change in yourself after hearing about a trauma, this may apply to you.
Don’t hesitate to seek help and open up about your feelings.