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Stress Management Information

What is a Stress Reaction?  Information for Yourself  Information for Family Members and Friends 

Critical Incidents are abnormal/uncommon events that may evoke great distress for those involved. In the aftermath of these events, individuals and their families are at a high risk for developing critical incident stress reactions or the more serious post-traumatic stress disorder.

Three events, which often qualify as “Critical Incidents” in our lives, are:
  1. The loss of someone close to us or under our care/supervision
  2. The belief that we may have come close to losing our own life
  3. Watching another person lose their life

What is A Stress Reaction?
Dr. Jeffrey T. Mitchell, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland and cofounder of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc., has defined critical incident stress as the normal reaction of a normal person to an abnormal event.

In the context of critical incident stress management, stress reactions are psychological and physiological changes that occur in a person who has been exposed to a stressful event. Stress reactions may appear within days or they may take months or years to surface. If stress reactions do not diminish in frequency and intensity within a few weeks of the event, assistance from a mental health professional may be necessary.

The following list of common stress reactions was provided by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland.

Physical

Thinking/Cognitive

Emotional

Behavioral

Chest tightness

Blaming

Abandoned

Alcohol consumption

Chills

Confusion

Agitation

Antisocial actions

Cold

Difficulty calculating

Anxiety

Changes in activity

Diarrhea

Difficulty concentrating

Apprehension

Changes in sex life

Dizziness

Difficulty in problem solving

Denial

Emotional outbursts

Fast breathing

Difficulty making decisions

Depression

Erratic movements

Fatigue

Difficulty naming common objects

Fear

Harsh with family

Grinding teeth

Difficulty reading

Feeling isolated

Hyperalert to environment

Headaches

Disorientation (place/time)

Feeling lost

Inability to rest/relax

Hormone changes

Distressing dreams

Feeling numb

Increase/Loss of appetite

Nausea

Hypervigilance

Grief

Job changes

Profuse sweats

Increased/decreased alertness

Guilt

Nonspecific body pains

Rapid heartbeat

Intrusive memories

Intense anger

Pacing

Sleep problems

Memory problems (short or long)

Irritability

Paranoia

Thirst

Offensive/Defensive self reviews

Limited contact

Relationship problems

Tremors (hands)

Overwhelmed by normal routines

Sadness

Speech pattern changes

Twitching

Poor attention span (decreased)

Uncertainty

Startle reflex intensified

Upset stomach

Seeing event over and over again

Wanting to hide

Suspiciousness

Visual difficulty

Slower thought process

Worry

Withdrawal into oneself


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