Traumatic or critical incidents are sudden, unexpected events that not only disrupt our sense of control, but may challenge our beliefs, values, and basic assumptions about the world in which we live, the people in it, or the work that we do.  It typically involves the perception of a life damaging threat, and may also involve emotional or physical loss.  There are five important things to remember about critical incident stress:
Each individual will experience - and therefore respond - to a critical incident in his or her own way; however, there are some common signs and symptoms.  You may experience only a few of these, or you may experience many or all of them, and they may last anywhere from a few days to months or years.  If any of these symptoms are causing you distress or interfering with your life, then it is a good idea to make an appointment with a counselor to discuss how to deal with them. 
  • Irritability or anger
  • Over- or Underreacting to daily life events
  • Preoccupation with critical incident or traumatic event
  • Depression, guilt, or suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional numbing
  • Loss of religious faith
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty with details
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty with report writing
  • Headaches
  • Stomach upset/indigestion
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Hyper-alertness (being easily startled)
  • Dizziness/Vertigo, trembling, sweating
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Increased impulsiveness or risk-taking
  • Becoming silent/withdrawn/avoidant
  • Sleep problems (insomnia/hypersomnia/nightmares/etc)
  • Changes in work or personal habits
  • Use of alcohol or other substances to "self-medicate"
  • Compulsive revisiting of circumstances of trauma