Psychological shock is when you experience a psychological response to a terrifying, traumatic or surprising event. It can be from a number of traumatic events, like a car accident, going through a breakup, witnessing something scary, or any other kind of event that can lead to feelings of fear. It is also known as Acute stress disorder. By recognizing when you go into psychological shock, you will be able to make much better decisions.
It may bring about delayed stress reactions (better known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD) if not correctly addressed.
• The hallmark symptom of shock is feeling a surge of adrenalin.
• You may feel jittery or physically sick, like you’re going to vomit or have diarrhea.
• Your mind will likely feel very foggy, or like you can’t think straight.
• You may feel out of body.
• Your chest may feel tight.
• You may feel a disconnection from what’s happening, like you’re watching a movie of events unfolding rather than actually being there.
• You may feel intense anger and want to scream or yell—for example, if your child is injured while someone else is supposed to be watching them.
• You may feel like you want to run.
Why do we have these symptoms?
These symptoms are all part of the body’s acute fight, flight, or freeze response. Your body prepares you for fast, thoughtless action. For example, blood rushes to the muscles in your limbs ready for you to spring into activity; we tend to hyperventilate as well, which leads to the cognitive symptoms of feeling spacey and foggy.
You may experience psychological shock in the wake of an event that suddenly changes your world. It could be an event that affects you or those close to you, such as your parents, spouse, children, or close friends.
Some of the causes of emotional shock can include:
• Domestic abuse
• Financial crisis
• Health diagnosis
• Job loss
• Natural disaster
• Near death incident
• Witnessing a death, accident, crime, or trauma
There are a number of issues that can arise from acute stress. Depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and substance abuse problems can develop from acute stress. Untreated ASD can also lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Evaluation of patients is done through close examination of emotional response. Using self-report from patients is a large part of diagnosing Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), as acute stress is the result of reactions to stressful situations.
Unless quick action is absolutely necessary, try to take deep breaths and make yourself calm before you do anything. You do not want to make a poor decision that you will regret later.
Psychological shock in the wake of a traumatic event can be treated with therapy, particularly if you develop Post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). Some of the forms of therapy that can treat PTSD include:
• Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT can help you experience your emotions and accept them, instead of trying to escape or avoid them.
• Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help challenge unhelpful thought patterns and correct problematic behaviors.
• Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT can help you regulate your emotions and increase mindfulness.
• Exposure therapy (ET): ET involves revisiting the situation and confronting your fears until you have processed the situation and are not scared of it anymore.
• Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT): Primarily designed for children and adolescents, TF-CBT can help them process the event and work through their emotional reactions.
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