Coping with Crisis & Loss

Everyone experiences crisis at some points during life. Examples of crisis or trauma situations include deaths, natural disasters, violent crime, sexual assault and abuse, the aftermath of suicide, threats to public health, or campus or domestic violence.

People may also experience trauma indirectly. For example, bystanders, friends or roommates of victims, family members, or public safety personnel who work with disaster or trauma victims may also be affected. Each person responds to a crisis or disaster differently. It is important to understand the potential reactions that accompany crisis and to know how to take care of yourself during times of extreme stress.

Typical Responses for Crisis

  • Shock or denial
  • Anger or irritability
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Numbness
  • Guilt
  • Grief

  • Changes in activity level
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Restlessness, agitation or pacing
  • Eating or appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbance/insomnia
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Inability to relax

  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dreams or nightmares of the event
  • Confusion
  • "Flashbacks" of crisis event
  • Self-doubt

  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Headaches and/or back pain
  • GI distress, nausea, vomiting
  • Muscle tension
  • Trembling
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Sweating or chills
  • Dizziness
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Weakness

  • Symptoms are usually significant when they interfere with usual activities, change behavior in significant ways, or they persist for more than two weeks.
  • Seek medical advice for any physical symptoms that are new especially if you are having health problems and have not had a medical evaluation.
  • If you are unable to escape feelings of panic, guilt, depression or stress, or these symptoms are extreme or prolonged, contact a professional mental health provider for advice.
  • Seek help or advice from a qualified mental health professional if a child or an adult begins thinking or feeling guilty or suicidal.