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  • Common Reactions to Critical Incidents

Critical Incidents Common Reactions

Updated: Apr 21


Most common distortions of the traumatic event are:

  • Distortion of time-(time may seem to have sped up or slowed down)

  • Sensory distortions- (i.e. tunnel vision, not hearing, etc.)

  • Perceptual or Behavioral Distortions- (Question, see or think events happened in an order or sequence despite reality or evidence)

  • Sense of helplessness-Limited choices

  • Feelings about your “Fight/Flight/Freeze” response

  • Disturbance in memory- can’t recall specific info or fluidity of the scene

  • Hyperarousal/Hypoarousal- heightened awareness of our surroundings or constriction on only certain aspects

Distortions often occur so we can function on autopilot or “act without thinking”, sometimes training takes over and/or our body’s natural physiological response to the environment.

After a trauma Officers may feel:

  • Detached

  • Shock and disbelief

  • Anxiety, nervousness

  • Pre-occupied with thoughts about the incident

  • Angry, resentful

  • Highly sensitive to others

  • Guilt/remorse

  • Blaming others

  • Want to go home/Be at home

  • Irritable

  • Hypervigilant

  • Unexpected crying spells

  • Relief

  • Proud, Happy

  • Exhilaration

  • Acceptance/Resolution

  • Isolation

  • Feelings that change

  • or may conflict with each other

After traumatic incidents Officers may exhibit increased bodily sensations such as:

  • Headaches

  • Nausea and stomachaches

  • Weakness/Fatigue

  • Muscle tension/Twitches

  • Changes in appetite and/or sleep

  • Changes in sexual function or libido

  • Flashbacks of the incident, daymares/nightmares

  • Anxiety and/or Depression

  • Anger, irritability, and/or low frustration tolerance

  • Distorted, slowed memory, or forgetfulness

Any or all of these emotions or changes can occur and are normal but they should lessen over time. If your symptoms start to increase or impact your daily functioning, then please call for an appointment with a mental health professional.

Dr. Carrie Steiner 1-630-909-9094



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