The terrible tragedy that befell the spectators of the Boston Marathon recently cannot be easily shrugged off. For those who were there, many will likely develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. Witnesses and direct victims alike may find themselves experiencing flashbacks in which they are emotionally teleported back to the tragedy. For those who underwent moments of panic and intense fear, these feelings can return when least expected, when one is experiencing Post Traumatic Stress.
People with Post Traumatic Stress or the full blown disorder of PTSD, experience feelings related to fight-or-flight reaction which in turn, was brought about by a life threatening trauma suffered at a previous time. Fight-or-flight is a powerful and important basic instinct that we come equipped with. It is a basic instinct that has been essential to our survival since the dawn of humankind. Fight-or-flight is triggered when we are thrust into a situation where our life is in danger. One’s instinct is to escape or attack. Ordinarily in nature, this would save you by getting you far away from danger (flight) or aid you in an unavoidable fight (i.e. killing a dangerous animal). When one undergoes a terrifying tragedy in which one’s life and sense of safety is threatened, this fight-or-flight reaction can stick with us for many months or even years after the offending trauma. At the slightest reminder of the trauma, even a scent or a sound, a person is emotionally transported back into the original traumatic situation and may become fearful, angry/agressive, sad, depressed, etc.
For those who have developed Post Traumatic Stress, symptoms may seem to come out of nowhere and may be mystifying for those not expecting it. If you have experienced a life threatening trauma or witnessed terror related to witnessing a tragedy, you may find yourself experiencing sudden spikes in poor mood, intense fear/panic or perhaps you are snapping at people, becoming enraged with little or no disturbance. If this is happening, first see if you can get to know your triggers so that you can be prepared and mindful of what is happening. This mindfulness of what you’re experiencing can diminish the duration and even the intensity of the episode. If you think you or someone you care about might have PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress, therapy can be very helpful. With treatment, there is definitely hope that one will get better.