Continual Exposure to Trauma

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Continual Exposure to Trauma
By: Nancy Hawley, MA, LMHC ~ 12/15/2018

ContinualExpTraumaBlog12152018_s.JPGWhether you view it as PTSD, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue or burnout, the symptoms are sneaky. You may have good boundaries, think that you don’t bring your work home with you, or believe that people who succumb to these feelings are not strong enough for the work. This is dangerous thinking. Anyone who is continually exposed to trauma will be affected. Human suffering brings forth feelings in us that accumulate over time. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms so that you are able to address them before they become a struggle in your personal and professional life.

Some of the signs and symptoms of being impacted by your work with suffering may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Eating more or less
  • Feeling chronically overwhelmed
  • Anxiety
  • Work-related nightmares
  • Social withdrawal
  • Avoidance of certain people or places
  • Feeling flat
  • Feelings of despair and/or hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling more pessimistic or cynical
  • No energy, time, and/or motivation for self-care
  • Intrusive thoughts and images
  • Worry or rumination
  • Increased fear for the safety of significant others (partner, children, family, etc.)
  • Increased reliance on substances such as alcohol, food, and recreational or medicinal products that dampen and manage emotional pain
  • Returning to old behavioral; habits and patterns
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Being much more sensitive and reactive to signs of danger
  • Increased sensitivity to certain sounds, smells, and/or lighting
  • Reduced sense of enjoyment or competence in your work
  • Increased sense of isolation
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Struggling frequently with illness, aches, and pains (Rutstein – “Self-Care for Those Who Work with Trauma”)

Continual self-care is the best way to address when these symptoms arise however should you find that they are not manageable on your own, are interfering with your relationships or impacting you professionally, seeking assistance from a therapist can help you identify coping strategies that work best for you.


Nancy Hawley, MA, LMHC Nancy Hawley, MA, LMHC

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