Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting

Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting

You may be struggling to understand how a shooting could occur and why such a terrible thing would happen. There may never be satisfactory answers to these questions.

We do know, though, that it is typical for people to experience a variety of emotions following such a traumatic event. These feelings can include shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment, grief and others. You may find that you have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating or remembering even simple tasks. This is common and should pass after a while. Over time, the caring support of family and friends can help to lessen the emotional impact and ultimately make the changes brought about by the tragedy more manageable. You may feel that the world is a more dangerous place today than you did yesterday. It will take some time to recover your sense of equilibrium.

Meanwhile, you may wonder how to go on living your daily life. You can strengthen your resilience — the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity — in the days and weeks ahead.

Here are some tips:

  • Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. It often helps to speak with others who have shared your experience so you do not feel so different or alone.
  • Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.
  • Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the Internet, television, newspapers or magazines. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits.
  • Honor your feelings. Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore or off balance.
  • Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can suppress your feelings rather than help you to manage and lessen your distress. In addition, alcohol and drugs may intensify your emotional or physical pain. Establish or re-establish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
  • Help others or do something productive. Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident, or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.
  • If you have recently lost friends or family in this or other tragedies. Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including “survivor guilt” — feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.

For many people, using the tips and strategies mentioned above may be sufficient to get through the current crisis. At times, however an individual can get stuck or have difficulty managing intense reactions. A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living.

Recovering from such a tragic event may seem difficult to imagine. Persevere and trust in your ability to get through the challenging days ahead. Taking the steps in this guide can help you cope at this very difficult time.

If you are struggling to understand or to overcome fears, a licensed therapist can help. Schedule an appointment today.

Original article may be found at: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/mass-shooting.aspx
This tip sheet was made possible with help from the following APA members: Dewey Cornell, PhD, Richard A. Heaps, PhD, Jana Martin, PhD, H. Katherine O’Neill, PhD, Karen Settle, PhD, Peter Sheras, PhD, Phyllis Koch-Sheras, PhD, and members of Division 17.

The Misunderstood Effects Of Mental Health Disorders

As many as one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. Mental health disorders are personal, they limit people, and they are widely misunderstood by society. Even though doctors and researchers have made huge strides in their understanding and treatment of mental health disorders, there is still much more to be learned. Here are a few that commonly occur in our society:

  1. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral condition that causes inattentiveness, impulsivity and over-activity, or a combination of all three. ADHD is often misunderstood and there are various misconceptions about the cause of treatment of this behavioral disorder. ADHD is not a made up medical condition, and those who are diagnosed with it aren’t lazy or dumb. This condition is real and is not an indication of someone’s intelligence or unwillingness to focus. Actually, individuals with ADHD are bombarded with input and often have to sift through many thoughts and observations to decide what is important right now.
  2. Eating Disorders are a mental health condition characterized by abnormal eating behaviors, such as reduced food intake, extreme overeating and obsessive concern with diet, body weight and shape. Eating disorders are not only widely misunderstood by the public, but researchers don’t know the underlying causes of eating disorders either. Many people believe that eating disorders only occur in females, but it’s quite the contrary. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of males in the U.S. have an eating disorder. Another common misconception about eating disorders is that people do it to get attention. This is completely untrue, and for many sufferers it is a way to handle depression, stress or trauma and has little to do with beauty.
  3. Autism Spectrum & Asperger’s Syndrome are a group of developmental disorders that affects one’s social and communication skills. This mental health condition typically appears in the first three years of life and is characterized by a number of symptoms, such as trouble communicating with words, slow or non-evident language development, repetitive body movements, distressed by changes in routines, and many other behaviors. Many of the misunderstandings about this mental condition are associated with the causes of autism, which are open to much debate. One major misconception is that autism is definitely caused by vaccines. There may be various factors that cause autism, such as genetics, diet, mercury poisoning and even vaccines, but researchers have yet to determine any exact causes for these chemical and biological abnormalities.
  4. Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme mood swings that range from depression to euphoria. The best explanation I’ve heard of mania is the feeling you have as a teenager- where it seems perfectly normal to do very risky things. These mood shifts generally don’t change in a single day, they come and go over weeks or months, and some people experience both depression and mania symptoms at the same time. Bipolar disorder is widely misunderstood by society as being a made up condition and an excuse people use to act irrationally and shift their moods whenever they feel like it. This couldn’t be more false because it is a real, proven medical disorder that is caused by chemical and biological differences in the brain. People with bipolar disorder don’t choose to be in a depressed or maniac state of mind, but they can reduce extreme mood swings with proper medical treatment.
  5. Borderline Personality Disorder is an emotional disorder characterized by distorted self-image and emotional instability. Those suffering from BPD often have feelings of worthlessness and think they’re fundamentally flawed. They are often seen as manipulative. They may act impulsively and engage in risky behavior. This chronic mental condition is widely misunderstood by society and has many negative stigmas. One common misconception about borderline personality disorder is that it’s not treatable, but dialectical behavior therapy has proven to be a successful treatment for BPD. People with BPD are not using it as an excuse to act out or be selfish; it’s a serious condition that cannot be ignored because symptoms may worsen and the risk of suicide increases.

The most important thing to understand with all mental health disorders is that no two persons will experience them the same. Though there is a list of symptoms, they will very in intensity and duration.

If you or a loved one suffers from a mental health disorder, know that you’re not alone. A licensed therapist can help you be understood and understand others. Schedule an appointment today.