Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Secondary Trauma

As many have noticed from the news, there was a severe tragedy occurred yesterday at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, UT. An armed gunman opened fire killing five people and injuring more. I heard on the radio that four or five that were injured were in stable condition, although they were watching them heavily in the ICU. Our hearts go out to them and their families and friends. Our hearts also go out to those that witnessed the atrocity, or were involved in any way. It is possible that they will suffer from secondary trauma. Primary trauma occurs when an individual is the actual victim or experiences personally the trauma. Secondary trauma occurs to a witness. Let's review what trauma means. Webster's online dictionary states: 1 a : an injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent b : a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury c : an emotional upset.
Obviously the first definition is primary. The second and third can be either primary or secondary. the unfortunate aspect of secondary trauma is that it can have the same or similar psychological effects as the primary victims. Flashbacks, paranoia symptoms, fear, nightmares, high anxiety, avoidance behaviors, etc. It can happen with any trauma, but doesn't necessarily mean that it will.

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