Critical Incident A critical incident is a relatively sudden

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					Critical Incident:                                     Remember,                                            Common effects:

A critical incident is a relatively sudden,            •   People react differently to traumatic events.    •    Nightmares, Insomnia; Flashback
untimely and unanticipated event or situation              They also progress through the effects of        •    Intrusive thoughts of the incident;
which is outside the range of usual human                  critical incident stress at different rates.     •    ‘what if’s?’
experience and which evokes unusually strong               Symptoms experienced may vary.                   •    Difficulties in concentration and memory
emotional reactions which have the potential to        •   Accept your own feelings and reactions to        •    Regression to earlier behaviours
interfere with one’s ability to function at the time       the incident as well as those of others. There   •    Apathy, no energy
the situation arises or later.                             is no wrong or right way to feel or think.       •    Inability to feel
                                                           Your reactions are valid.                        •    Decreased sexual interest, impotency
Many people experience a critical incident at          •   Most people do the best that they can at the     •    Outbursts of aggression; Violent impulses
some stage of their life. Sometimes a trauma may           time of a critical incident. Don’t take too      •    Irritability; Hostility, rage
be experienced indirectly, eg as a bystander, or           much responsibility for the incident or the      •    Anxiety
where friends or family are victims.                       way it went. Don’t be too harsh on yourself.     •    Startle reactions; hyperalertness
                                                       •   You have experienced or witnessed a              •    Restlessness
This leaflet is designed to help you to understand         traumatic event which no doubt will affect       •    Shock or denial; Numbness
the typical reactions of others who have been in           you in some way. Be aware that symptoms          •    Fear; Guilt; Grief
traumatic situations. It will give you some                may develop. Be alert to the signs of critical   •    Feelings of detachment from others
guidance in taking care of yourself so that                incident stress in your general functioning.     •    Sadness, depression
recovery can be facilitated.                                                                                •    Mistrust
                                                                                                            •    Phobias
At the time of the incident you may have felt                                                               •    Avoidance of reminders of the incident, of
stunned or frozen, or felt that your sense of time                                                               people or places connected to the incident
was distorted or your perceptions very focused.
You might have been angry, anxious or                                                                       Effects on attitudes:
frustrated Afterwards it is common to feel numb,       Effects of Critical Incident Stress
in shock, unable to believe what occurred.                                                                  •    A heightened sense of concern for the
Gradually the impact of the incident is felt, and      Symptoms usually begin immediately or soon           •    Well-being of loved ones
the numbness wears off. At this time, you may          after the trauma. Sometimes symptoms are             •    Feelings of hopelessness and a sense of loss
experience intrusive thoughts of the incident,         delayed for a period of months or in some cases           of control of one’s life
sleep is often disturbed, perhaps with nightmares,     even years after the incident although avoidance     •    A sense of a foreshortened future
or you may experience ‘flashbacks’ where               symptoms might have been present during this         •    Loss of trust in others, or in a God
aspects of the event recur in imagination so           period.                                              •    Loss of a sense of self as a worthwhile
vividly, you feel as if you are reliving the trauma.                                                             person; as invulnerable and immortal
Self-doubts and ‘what if’s?’ are common. All                                                                •    A sense that the world has changed; that it
reactions are part of your body’s efforts to come                                                                is not just or fair.
to terms with what you have experienced, part of                                                            •    Common concerns seem trivial
the natural process to recovery. Talking to people
that understand, whether friends, family, partner,
counsellors, chaplains, colleagues or fellow
survivors helps process the incident and provides
emotional relief.
Physical Responses:                                   •   Keep up some social contact.
                                                      •   Eat regular, balanced meals even if you
      Nausea, vomiting          Diarrhoea                 don’t feel hungry.
          Dizziness               Fatigue                 Memories of what you have experienced
      Heart palpitations      Rapid heart beat            will fade with time. Don’t have unrealistic
     Shaking, trembling          Sweating                 expectations that they will disappear early.
          Menstrual           Loss of appetite        •   Check on friends or colleagues who shared
      Muscular tension,      Chest pain (check
                                                          the experience with you. You may be
                                                          having a good day and can be supportive.
                                                          They can do the same for you at another
     headaches, aching        with your GP)
     neck and back pain                                   time.
    Shortness of breath,    Frequent low grade        •   Remember, you are not going crazy.
    Difficulty breathing,       infections            •   Remember, help is available if you find that
                                                          you are feeling too much pain.
                                                                                                             HOW TO COPE
Coping with the effects of critical incident          •   Remember that there is always hope, and
                                                          that the world is waiting for you to get back
                                                                                                           WITH THE EFFECTS
                                                          into it.
•     Remember that these reactions will lessen in    When to seek help
                                                                                                              OF CRITICAL
      time; they are normal reactions to extreme
      stress.                                         •   If numbness persists and you continue to feel    INCIDENT STRESS
•     Keep, or return to, your usual routine as           detached from life.
      much as possible. Structure your time.          •   If you feel overwhelmed by intense emotions
•     Talk to family and friends; share your              or physical symptoms.                              Camperdown Campus Counselling
      feelings and your concerns. This helps the      •   If your relationships are deteriorating as a                     Service
      healing process.                                    result of your experience.
                                                                                                              Level 7 – Education Building, A35
•     Don’t have rules about your progress, just go   •   If you are abusing alcohol or drugs.
      with how you feel.                              •   If nightmares or flashbacks persist.                   Telephone: (02) 9351 2228
•     Avoid over-use of alcohol and drugs.            •   If intrusive thoughts persist and are             E-mail:
•     Get some exercise or relaxation daily.              discomforting.
•     Do something pleasant for yourself from         •   If you cannot get on with the job after a
      time-to-time.                                       reasonable period.
•     Take some time and space to work through        •   If you are unable to discuss, express or share
      the event.                                          your experiences, perhaps because you have       Cumberland Campus Counselling Service
•     Sometimes jotting down thoughts helps to            no social supports.                                         Ground floor, A Block
      process your experience cognitively as well                                                                  Telephone: (02) 9351 9638
      as emotionally.
                                                       Prepared by Wendy McCartney for the                 E-mail:
Delay making major decisions or life changes at       Counselling Service, University of Sydney
this time; however making smaller day-to-day                                                                        Student Services:
decisions increases your feeling of control over                                                        

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