Emergencies at Home

| July 05, 2005

Signs of emotional stress can range from anger and panic to a total shutdown. “Some people just go into shock,” Smith says. “They experience a complete loss of emotional control, and they might get either super hyper vigilant or become totally oblivious to their surroundings.” Emotional stress will cause anger about things you don’t usually get angry about.

“The driver who’s away will feel likely some guilt,” Smith says. “He will feel that if he was there he could have prevented the tragedy. He might get angry or anxious, or he might go into total denial and think it could not have happened.”

These are some symptoms of PTSD, and they are usually temporary. “PTSD doesn’t happen to everybody,” Smith says. “We’re all different. A lot of that depends on what else might be going on.” In other words, if you’re already under a lot of stress due to other events, your reaction to news of a tragedy back home is likely to be more severe.

But remember this is all normal. “These are all possible responses to trauma,” Smith says. “You want to keep your eye on them, and if after a week or 10 days you’re still not sleeping, and your consumption of drugs or alcohol has escalated, seek professional help in the medical and mental health fields.”

Also, get back to the basics of taking care of yourself. Watch the caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake. Eat sensibly and regularly. Avoid big decisions or make them with the help of somebody you trust.

“The people you love are hurting,” Smith says. They’re going to need you as stable as you can be. “Talk with them,” she says. “Talk, talk, talk, and just kind of nurture and take care of them and yourself. Expect that there will be waves of sadness, grief and anger. They will get smaller and come less often, and you might need to get some help with that. If you believe you’ll get better, then you will. But if you don’t, and these clusters of symptoms keep occurring and messing up your life, then seek professional help.”

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