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The phenomenon of witness trauma

It is almost impossible to feel safe during war. And even if we are in calmer regions of the country or abroad, we can be traumatized to one degree or another by the events that appear in our news feeds. It is impossible to isolate yourself from the suffering of people who lived under occupation. Photos, videos, written news text in social media feeds about hot spots, about Bucha, about Mariupol, about Kherson and many other cities and towns of our country, do not give us the opportunity to pass by someone else's grief, because everyone perceives it as their own. This touch of grief, identification with the people who suffered and is the reason for the psychological trauma of the witness.

The trauma of a witness is the inability of a person to perceive the horror that he observes. This is when we do not have the ability to cope with the intensity of feelings that arise in response to an extreme event - dangerous or deadly. We are now all witnesses of violence and horrors.

Here are the main signs of witness trauma:

  • feeling of complete powerlessness;

  • you feel incredible guilt and shame for being safe;

  • you are worried and scared;

  • even with time, memories do not reduce the intensity of the reaction;

  • it is extremely difficult to talk about what you have seen, as if you stop feeling something. The so-called muteness;

  • may have nightmares;

  • panic attacks appear;

  • insomnia;

  • Eating disorders appear.

And these signs of psychological trauma can vary depending on the nature of the event, the personal characteristics of the witness and the level of support they receive after the traumatic situation. Such reactions differ from the reactions of sympathy and experience, because what a person observes affects his psychological safety. There are a lot of feelings, but there is no way to act.

So how to help yourself and loved ones?

Try to talk. It's good when a person can talk, when you can talk with loved ones

Name your state. In order to survive all that was seen, you need to create your own narrative, try to understand why I was affected by this event, what does it mean for me? Look for words to describe the state you or your loved ones are in.

Be attentive to your body. It is very important to be attentive to your biological processes as much as possible in the conditions of war. Watch your diet as much as possible, drink enough water, try to sleep if possible.

If you or your relatives are unable to cope with your conditions on your own, then be sure to seek help from specialists.

Psychologist - Svitlana Alekseeva

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