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Coping with psychological trauma

Iowa workers who suffer on-the-job physical injuries also are at risk for suffering psychological injuries due to the trauma of the accident. The American Psychological Association defines psychological trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event, including an accident. Shock and denial are typical emotional responses immediately after the accident, but many people have long-term reactions as well, such as flashbacks, thought and behavior pattern changes, intense and/or unpredictable feelings, strained relationships with family or friends, even chest pain, headaches, nausea and other stress-related physical symptoms.

Experts agree that coping with these psychological injuries takes time. How much time depends on the person, the severity of the precipitating accident and the severity of the resulting physical and psychological injuries. In addition to granting themselves the time to mourn their losses and adjust to their post-trauma life, psychologists suggest that accident victims use the following coping mechanisms:

  • Do not be afraid or hesitant to ask for help from family, friends and, if needed, professionals.
  • Talk about the accident and the resulting feelings whenever, however, and with whomever they feel comfortable.
  • Explore the possibility of joining a local support group led by a compassionate, trained professional.
  • Establish or reestablish normal daily routines.
  • Engage in healthy behaviors, such as getting plenty of rest and avoiding alcohol and drugs that can mask symptoms and make it more difficult to recover.
  • Do not make a major life-changing decision, such as breaking off a relationship or switching jobs, while under high stress.

In addition, try keeping a journal of day-to-day thoughts and feelings. Studies have shown that writing about the trauma and its aftereffects not only reduces stress, but also is quite therapeutic for most people.

Growing after trauma

An article in Psychology Today assures victims of a traumatic event that, with time, their life may become even better than it was prior to their accident. Not only can they learn to recognize and appreciate their own strength and resilience, they also can become more compassionate people with an enhanced sense of purpose and a greater appreciation for life in general.

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