Something bad happened to me

When something bad or awful happens to you, it can be really upsetting and interfere with other areas of your life. In this case, you may be experiencing trauma. Find out about common responses to trauma, and tips on how to cope, including knowing when it’s time to seek help.

This can help if:

  • You've been through something awful
  • You want to understand the common responses to trauma 
  • You want to know how to cope with what happened 
Back of girl at train station

What is trauma?

A traumatic event is one which is especially stressful and has a negative impact on your emotional state. Some common examples of situations where people experience trauma include:

  • Being involved in or witnessing an accident
  • Witnessing or being a victim of abuse or violence
  • Losing someone close to you

Really though, it can be anything that you find particularly upsetting. Going through trauma can really interfere with other areas of your life, especially when the situation was life threatening. It can take some time to adjust to being comfortable with your life afterwards.

Common responses to trauma

Some of the common emotional reactions you may when something bad happens include:

  • Fear
  • Horror
  • Helplessness

After an upsetting event it’s common to feel:

  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Stressed
  • Anxious
  • Detachment

Coping with a traumatic event

If you’ve been through a traumatic event, it’s important that you look after yourself. Try and work through the feelings and reactions you’re having so that they don’t become overwhelming. A few different things that may help you express what you’re feeling include:

  • Write about it. It may help to keep a diary where you can write down your feelings, as well as anything else that you feel like writing about.
  • Get creative. Whether you’re artistic, or not so much, painting or drawing is another great way of letting out what you’re feeling.
  • Talk to someone.  Bottling up what you’re feeling can often make your reactions to a stressful event worse in the long run. Try chatting to a friend or family member that you trust about the event and what you are feeling. You might also find it easy and helpful to chat with someone who was involved in the event.
  • Talk to an expert. Doctors, counsellors or clinical psychologists can be great to talk to after a stressful event, and can give you some other different strategies to express your feelings and reactions.

What if I still don’t feel okay?

Most people who go through trauma recover after a few weeks with the help of family and friends, but it’s completely ok if it takes you longer.

Sometimes when your distress doesn’t go away, it can be a sign that there’s something more serious going on. If you’ve tried a a number of the strategies above, but things don't seem to be getting better, there could be something more serious going on. Check out our fact sheet, 'What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder' for more info. 

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 04 March, 2016
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