Vicarious Trauma

What Is Vicarious Trauma?

Vicarious trauma occurs when a person experiences trauma without directly witnessing the traumatic event. This can be through the large amounts of trauma on social media, reading about the ongoing war in Ukraine, or hearing about school shootings. Also, having a job that is closely tied to traumatic experiences can create vicarious trauma. These things can impact pact us, our daily lives, and our emotions.

What Are Signs of Vicarious Trauma?

  • Noticing an unhealthy attachment to an event or situation
  • Ruminating thoughts about a recent event
  • Shifting emotions when thinking about the event
  • Inappropriate guilt or shame 

What Causes Vicarious Trauma to Happen?

As noted above, hearing, learning, or being employed in certain job sectors, such as a mortician, can create vicarious trauma. Typically, a person’s brain and nervous system become overwhelmed when they experience trauma. This is no different than with direct exposure to trauma.

Vicarious trauma can occur from an article you read that you closely identify with or from the shear amount of trauma going on in our world today.

What Are Ways People Deal with Vicarious Trauma?

Person struggling with vicarious trauma.
Internal challenges can manifest at any time.

 People can manage vicarious trauma in either an unhealthy or healthy manner. Some ways to negatively cope with vicarious trauma include:

  • Avoidance or escape when reminders of an event arise
  • Substance use to numb out after work
  • Isolation from others

When considering healthy ways to manage vicarious trauma we look at:

  • Working out to alleviate stress
  • Acceptance
  • Noticing slight changes in your body, nervous system, and/or physiology
  • Engaging in activities that bring you meaning and relaxation
  • Working with a trauma therapist 

Can EMDR Therapy Help Alleviate Vicarious Trauma?

EMDR therapy can absolutely help someone who experiences vicarious trauma. An EMDR therapist can act as a great support and pathway to process vicarious trauma symptoms.

Vicarious trauma can leave lasting feelings of being less than; thoughts of self-blame; guilt and shame; and intrusive thoughts. EMDR therapy can clear out these dysfunctional thoughts, feelings, and sensations that linger after a traumatic event occurs. By engaging in EMDR therapy you are igniting your body’s innate healing system so you are able to live the life you desire.

See How an EMDR Therapist Can Support You! Call Now!

If you are feeling the effects of vicarious trauma submit a form here or call us at 720.295.6703 to schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation. Sometimes all we need is a little support if we are struggling. See how EMDR therapy can benefit your life!

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