Chapman University

Student Psychological Counseling Services
Wellness Center
Normal Reactions to Abnormal Events

Everyone responds differently to traumatic incidents, regardless of how immediate the situation is to that individual. Because this tragedy is especially horrific, even people who do not have friends or family to be concerned about will often feel overwhelmed and frightened, especially since our illusion of safety and invulnerability has been shattered. It is especially important that in our shock and anger about what has happened that we not jump to conclusions or find ourselves blaming any particular group of people. Realizing that we all are under a great deal of stress means we must reach out to others, as well as heal ourselves. Some of the normal reactions which you may experience are:

Physical Reactions:
Fatigue  Nightmares
Insomnia Hyperactivity
Hypersomnia Startle reactions
Under activity Exhaustion
 Headaches, stomach problems, appetite changes

Cognitive Reactions:
Difficulty concentrating Difficulty making decisions
Difficulty solving problems Memory disturbance
Inability to attach importance to anything other than the incident

Emotional Reactions:
Fear Anxiety
Guilt Depression
Emotional numbing Feelings of helplessness
Over sensitivity Anger
Violent fantasies Irritability

These are normal reactions, and although painful, are part of the natural healing process. There’s very little you can do to make yourself not experience these feelings, but there are things you can do to promote a healthy response.

Things to Do:

* Alternate periods of inactivity with exercise to help alleviate physical reactions
* Take the initiative to talk with others, express your feelings
* Talk to people about what you are experiencing
* Structure your time — continue your normal pattern of activities as much as possible
* Remind yourself that these reactions are normal — you are not crazy
* Give yourself permission to feel depressed, overwhelmed and sad, and express these feelings
* Find positive ways to express your grief — give blood, write in a journal, reach out to others
* Maintain good nutrition and don’t numb yourself with alcohol or drugs