7 signs you should not ignore after a traumatic experience

Healthline defines a traumatic event as an occurrence that causes emotional, physical or psychological pain. Traumatic experiences impact everyone differently. An event that renders one person deeply depressed may have minimal influence on another victim. As unique individuals, we all process life utilizing coping mechanisms that we have at our disposal. That's why it is so important to know when you or a loved one needs help.

The most common events that frequently lead to trauma are accidents, physical assault, mental, physical or sexual abuse, child abandonment, the threat of violence, fires, terminal medical diagnosis, life-threatening scenarios, combat, prison, mugging, natural disaster, divorce or death of a loved one. Any person who has experienced one or more of these types of events should recognize the fact that they may need professional help.

Below are seven signs that should never be ignored. When these symptoms appear, it is time to get help.

  1. Upsetting memories or dreams about a traumatic event.

We all remember certain events in life that are intense. Recurring flashbacks or nightmares that cause anxiety or emotional distress are something altogether different than usual dreams and warrant extra attention.

These type of negative symptoms may show up a week, a month or years after the traumatic event occurred. Mayo Clinic defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a condition caused by witnessing or being involved in any trauma-inducing event.

While it is common to have a period of adjustment to overcome trauma, in some cases sufferers must reach out for help and get treatment to heal. A good rule of thumb is to get help if symptoms last for much longer than a month or two. Check out to get information about treatment.

  1. Drug or alocohol abuse

The use of drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism is well documented as a dangerous way that many people choose to forget about a terrifying or traumatic event. Unfortunately, instead of making the situation better, these types of activities typically complicate life even further. If you or a family member start drinking too much or experimenting with drugs after a traumatic incident, then it is time to get professional help.

  1. Ongoing and increased incidences of physical and emotional symptoms

Arousal symptoms are emotional and physical reactions that often change after experiencing a traumatic event in life. Many survivors find that they are jumpy or easily startled, feeling afraid more frequently than in the past, expecting danger at every turn.

Other notable behavior changes often associated with these types of disquieting occurrences are sleep disorders like insomnia, an inability to concentrate, angry outbursts, and irritability. Out of character aggression is another possible symptom.

  1. Depression and anxiety

The signs of depression are not a surprising reaction to terrifying life events. Withdrawing from activities that were once considered important and enjoyable is one obvious behavior that is often connected with depression. Victims are also likely to become less social, reluctant to talk on the phone or attend family events.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America cites both physical and emotional reactions related to feelings of anxiety. Physically, a victim can experience a pounding heartbeat, hyperventilation, trembling or sweating. This type of fight or flight response can feel overwhelming. Gastrointestinal distress is also a common physical issue that arises as anxious feelings threaten victims. Panic attacks are blamed on anxiety and can be so debilitating and frightening that people believe they are having a heart attack or dying.

  1. Negative mood swings and thinking

Unprovoked mood swings can point to trouble. Otherwise confident and upbeat victims can suddenly slide into bouts of negativity, harboring contempt for others and for themselves. Mood swings often make it difficult to maintain important and close relationships with family members, friends, and coworkers.

Some victims report feeling numb. In situations like this, it is difficult to feel happiness or to enjoy comfort from the simple joys of life like eating favorite foods or taking a walk on a beautiful, sunny day.

  1. Suicidal warning signs

When anxiety and depression make life intolerable for victims, thoughts of suicide can become persistent. Knowing what to look for is crucial for saving a life. Warning signs are reckless behavior such as car racing, mood swings, inability to sleep, substance abuse, unexplained feelings of rage, depression, withdrawal from friends and family members, disinterest in activities once enjoyed, threats to commit suicide, and a sudden and unexplained calmness like they have no care in the world.

It is crucial to get some help if you have any thoughts of suicide or know someone who is at high risk as exemplified by the behaviors listed above. You should always take a person seriously when they threaten suicide. Suicide hotlines and professional mental health professionals offer solutions that can save a life.

  1. Changes in appetite

One definite indication that a victim is suffering is if they stop eating or start eating everything in sight. Depression often causes this type of lifestyle change. If you no longer care about taking the trouble to feed yourself, then there is no denying that there is a serious problem that must be addressed.

When a friend has suffered a traumatic event and then starts losing weight or gaining a lot of weight in the aftermath of the horrific occurrence, then it is time to reach out to help. Since it is impossible to know how serious the situation is, it is best to access professional help in such cases.


Traumatic events can change a life forever. That's why it is so important to be mindful of the symptoms that can appear when a victim is in trouble. Reaching out to a friend in need or knowing when you are personally in trouble yourself can save a life or minimize suffering.