Recognize that you have been through a highly stressful experience and acknowledge that you will have a psychological reaction to it. Excessive denial, or refusal to accept your feelings, may delay the recovery process. Do not try to block out thoughts of the incident or to avoid reminders of it. Confronting the reality, bit by bit, will help you come to terms with the experience. Do not bottle up your feelings, but instead express them. Talking with others about your feelings will help you accept what has happened. Following trauma you are more vulnerable to accidents and physical illness so it is important to look after yourself and be more careful than usual.

Helpful hints

1.  Resume your normal life routine as quickly as possible.

2.  Sometimes you’ll need to be alone but don’t become too isolated.

3.  Do the things you used to enjoy regularly. Make time for yourself and relaxation


4.  Recurring thoughts, dreams and flashbacks are normal, don’t try to fight them, but

rather try to process them and they will decrease with time.

5. Talk about the incident and how you are feeling with people who care about you. This

may feel painful, but is often the best way of coming to terms with the event.

6.  If you have trouble talking to others write it down.

8.  Your reactions are possibly quite normal so don’t think that you are losing control.

9.  Get plenty of rest and eat regular meals.

10. Regular exercise is important in reducing the physical effects of stress and trauma.

11. Reduce stimulants i.e. tea, coffee, chocolate, coke and cigarettes, may help.

12. Do not try to numb the pain with alcohol and drugs, this only leads to more


14. After a trauma people can come out wiser and stronger. Try to identify any positive

outcomes and try to focus on these.

Trauma Conditioning, Avoidance & Exposure Therapy

Assault is experienced by most as a sudden traumatic event during which extreme fear is experienced. Symptoms of fear and anxiety can be understood through a process called classical conditioning. For example, a female rape victim becomes fearful of all men because she associates men with the assault. The assault which is an extremely aversive experience brings about automatic responses of fear and anxiety. Persons, situations or events which are present at the time of the assault become associated with the traumatic experience and may bring about negative emotional responses. Trauma related fears may also generalize to similar people, situations and events as those present at the time.

The conditioned responses described above causes the victim to feel fear and anxiety when confronted with situations or memories associated with the assault. In an attempt to eliminate these feelings victims tend to avoid situations that elicit discomfort. Unfortunately, with highly traumatic events, avoiding your feelings does not make them go away. Often the experience comes back to haunt you through flashbacks and phobias because it is “unfinished business”. On the other hand, we know that if you expose yourself to a memory or feared situation for long enough your fear and anxiety of it will decrease.

Exposure Therapy consists of prolonged exposure to anxiety producing thoughts and situations. The aim being for the victim to confront these fear evoking thoughts and situations with the aim of reducing irrational fear and anxiety. Exposure can be imagined, which involves repeated reliving of the event, or in vivo, which involves planned confrontations with things associated with the trauma. Exposure Therapy firstly promotes habituation, thus reducing anxiety associated with the trauma, and secondly, aids to correct irrational estimates of danger.

Traumatic Images & Flashbacks

When a traumatic image or flashback of the traumatic incident occurs stay with it and do not try to avoid it. By doing this you will eventually be able to integrate these images into memory just like any other memory event. The more time we spend processing them the more likely they will be appropriately stored away. After a traumatic image try to understand it’s content, your emotional response to it and try to make some sense of it. The more meaning we can assign to such images the more likely that it will be filed away in memory.

Trauma and Anger

Anger is a turbulent emotion that is part of being human. Anger can have positive effects, such as energizing us into action, but it can also have negative effects, especially when it is too frequent, too intense, lasts too long and leads to aggression. Anger is often the result of a traumatic experience. You can learn to manage it by adjusting how you think about the provoking circumstances, regulating your level of arousal and tension, and developing behavioral coping skills for dealing with your anger. Gaining knowledge about your anger creates the capacity to manage it.

Anger management means learning to think differently about the things that make you angry, how not to get angry so often, how to keep it at low levels of intensity, and how to prevent it from lasting too long. Anger management keeps you from being the victim of your anger and involves taking action that is aimed at resolving a problem. Some techniques are thought controls, arousal and tension reduction, and behaviour controls.

Anger results from things that go on in your head which you have control over. A. Focus your attention away from things which cause you anger and are non-productive. B. Set realistic expectations of yourself and others and be flexible with outcomes. C. When you appraise a situation be in a positive frame of mind, and try to maintain a constructive outlook about yourself and others.  D. Say things to yourself which will help you cope with the provocation, for example, “stick to the issues and don’t take it personally”.

Rules for better sleep

Lie down to go to sleep only when you are actually sleepy.

Do not use your bed for anything other than sleep.

If you do not fall asleep within about 15-20 minutes after turning out the light, get up, go to another room, and do something that is not too arousing, such as reading or ironing. Return to your bed when you next feel sleepy, usually around 15-20 minutes later.

If you return to bed and still cannot sleep repeat rule 3.

If you wake up during the night and cannot go back to sleep follow rules 3 & 4.

Get up and about the same time every morning. You may need to get your biological clock back in order.

Do not nap during the day.

Do some form of relaxation each day, such as go for a walk.

Do some gentle exercise prior to going to bed, such as stretching, or the relaxation technique described below.

Take a warm bath or shower before going to bed.

No coffee, cigarettes or other stimulants after4.00 pm.

Do not have a heavy meal before bedtime.

Learn to reduce thinking and worrying in bed. Give yourself time to do this thinking and worrying during the day.

Basic Relaxation Technique:

Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet place. Concentrate on your breathing. Think about each breath; in through the nose and slowly out through the mouth to the count of five. Tighten individual muscles, starting at the toes and moving up your body to the top of your head. Now tighten and relax each in turn, starting from the top of your head, letting the tension go with each breath. Continue to concentrate on your breathing, allowing any distracting thoughts to flow out with each breath.

For further specific advice call Victims of Crime Counselling & Compensation Services on 1800 000 055.


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