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Skip Navigation LinksPA Crime Victims > For Victims > Understanding Trauma

UNDERSTANDING TRAUMA 

Each person’s reaction to trauma may differ. Often times, when a person experiences a traumatic event, their sense of safety and well-being are so damaged that they cannot use their normal, daily coping skills. The normal coping skills we use in our day-to-day lives are not sufficient to deal with trauma. 

A traumatic event can affect a person’s thoughts and ideas and can cause a person to be extremely confused, anxious and fearful. They may experience very strong emotional feelings, feel stunned, dazed and shocked. They may be unable to make decisions, feel like crying all the time, experience feelings of hopelessness or emptiness and have difficulty being alone.

A traumatic event may also cause physical symptoms. Some people may have difficulty breathing, chest pains, have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and suffer other physical problems. It is highly recommended that a person who may be experiencing physical symptoms as a result of a traumatic event should talk to their medical doctor.

Trauma can be caused by a single event or a series of events. The effects of trauma may be delayed for weeks after the traumatic event. People may react differently to similar events. People who go through traumatic events often have problems weeks, months or even years later, as they may re-experience the trauma, both mentally and emotionally.

Trauma reminders, referred to as “triggers,” can cause anxiety and other types of emotional trauma. Triggers for some people may be the anniversary date of the crime, a birthday, certain smells or television shows or movies that involve crime. A person may not know what the triggers will be, how they will react to them, or when they will occur. For some people, triggers may become less frequent over time, last for shorter periods of time and the intensity of them may diminish.

As a result of a traumatic event, a person may experience intense feelings of anger, vivid dreams, nightmares or flashbacks of the event and feelings of fear and insecurity. Some people may have feelings of being permanently broken and don’t believe their life will ever improve. They may have trouble concentrating. Others may experience a sense of feeling disconnected and in shock or disbelief that the world still goes on around them. These are all normal feelings for someone who has experienced a traumatic event.

If, you have experienced a traumatic event, feel emotionally distressed and feel as if your life has changed, there is help for you. You may want to talk to a professional about the trauma, the anxiety, and emotion distress you may be experiencing. Talk to your advocate or an advocate through your local Victim Service Program and ask how you can receive financial assistance with counseling/therapy expenses by submitting a claim for those costs to the Victims Compensation Assistance Program.