Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how first responders and even those watching the news can develop symptoms of psychological trauma - click here.
Secondary trauma is a special risk for professionals involved in responding first to the scene of violence and destruction.
Despite their focus on managing the scene and assisting those in need, they also become participants in the events leaving them uniquely exposed to trauma. While they witness firsthand the consequences of tragic events such as terrorist attacks, industrial accidents, and deliberate acts of violence, their brains begin to absorb and record the tragedy in front of them.
About 50% of those who are routinely exposed to traumatic events develop their own anxiety and trauma. Sometimes, they can develop symptoms similar to the original victims.
Some of the symptoms of secondary trauma include:
- Emotional deregulation
- Intrusive thoughts and memories about the event
- Hyper-vigilance or constantly being on guard
- Psychological numbing
- A shift in their explanatory view toward more negative, pessimistic, and darker beliefs
Secondary trauma is more likely to occur in people who have experienced trauma before. In addition, the ill effects of secondary trauma may accumulate over time. If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing the effects of trauma, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.
The work of Dr. John Briere