Common Problems

Going through a trauma can cause many kinds of reactions. Some of the most common problems are described below. Adapted from

Fear and Anxiety

  • Anxiety is a common and natural response to a dangerous situation and can sometimes last long after the trauma
  • Your sense of feeling safe can be changed
  • You may be more fearful now than before
  • Triggers, or reminders of the trauma can cause anxiety and intense reactions in your body

Examples of Triggers: places, times of day, certain smells, noises, sounds, or any situation related to your trauma

Trauma Memories

  • Troubling thoughts of the trauma that you can’t seem to get rid of
  • Flashbacks, or very vivid images, as if the trauma is occurring again
  • Nightmares are bad dreams that are related to the event

Increased Alertness

  • Continuous alertness can lead to impatience and irritability, especially if you’re not getting enough sleep.
  • Jitters, sensitivity, and hyper feelings can be due to the “fight or flight” response in your body.
  • Trauma can cause an increase in adrenaline and stress hormones. This is how your body automatically prepares to react in case something bad happens again.
  • People who have been through a trauma feel as though world is filled with more danger, which causes them to feel “on edge.”
  • Another reaction to danger is to “freeze,” like the deer in the headlights.

Examples of Increased Alertness: feeling jumpy, jittery, shaky, being easily startled, having trouble concentrating, getting annoyed easily, and difficulty falling or staying asleep.


  • Common way of distancing yourself for anything the reminds you of the trauma
  • Often avoiding situations that are less directly related to the trauma
  • Feeling numb (empty) physically and/or emotionally
  • Detaching from others
  • Painful thoughts or feelings may be so intense that your mind just blocks them out 


  • You may feel angry at those closest to you, or just generally ticked off
  • Anger can arise from a feeling that the world and what happened to you was not fair.

Examples of Anger: yelling, screaming, getting into fights, violence, or ignoring people more than usual. 

Guilt and Shame

  • Many people blame themselves for things they did or didn’t do to survive
  • You may feel ashamed because, during the trauma, you acted in ways that you would not otherwise have done
  • Feeling guilty about the trauma means that you are taking responsibility for what happened, which can give you some control.
  • Blaming yourself and feeling ashamed can cause you to feel helpless or depressed

Grief and Depression

  • You may cry more often than usual
  • You may lose interest in people and activities you used to enjoy
  • You may also feel that plans you had for the future don’t seem to matter anymore, or that life isn’t worth living
  • You may be grieving for someone or something you lost because of the trauma
  • These feelings can lead to thoughts of wishing you were dead, or doing something to hurt or kill yourself.  If you are having these thoughts, please call 1-800-273-TALK

Examples of Depression: feeling sad or down, hopelessness, loss of interest in fun or friends, tearfulness, or despair

Alcohol or Other Substances

  • People often increase their use of alcohol and drugs after a trauma
  • This is sometimes used as a way to escape or feel numb to the pain
  • Substance abuse can actually slow down your recovery and cause a lot more problems
  • If you struggle with substance abuse since the trauma, it is usually helpful to talk to a counselor or other trusted adult.