Reactions to trauma

A person's mind and body may react to trauma over a period of time, perhaps days, weeks or months. As with grief, people react to trauma in different ways.

Some of the more common reactions are listed below. We don't expect that everyone will experience all of these reactions.


  • palpitations, trembling or sweating
  • easily startled by noises
  • breathing difficulties
  • headaches or muscle aches
  • digestive problems such as nausea, constipation, diarrhoea or a change in eating patterns
  • tiredness, fatigue, restlessness
  • increased irritability
  • increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
  • withdrawal or detachment from others, loss of interest in social activities
  • lack of motivation
  • avoidance of certain places or situations that are reminders of the experience
  • sleep problems


  • flashbacks or re-experiencing the disturbing event while awake, or in dreams
  • pre-occupation with what happened, repetitive thoughts, asking 'why?'
  • confused or slowed thinking
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • experiencing memory problems
  • feeling responsible 


  • increased anxiety, panic attacks
  • troubled or distressed when exposed to other disturbing events e.g. on television or in the newspaper
  • worry about others
  • feelings of abandonment, isolation, powerlessness
  • feeling out of control or that life and the world are out of control
  • numbness and/or mood swings
  • may experience a variety of emotions, including depression, sadness, guilt, blame, anger, frustration fear, and irritability

These symptoms can be distressing, however there are ways to work through trauma. In many cases, these symptoms decrease dramatically in the weeks following the traumatic event.

Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include:

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