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Male youth sitting playing guitarAm I normal?

Reactions to Overwhelming Stressful Events

Most people have reactions to traumatic events or other overwhelming situations.  These experiences may affect your ability to function and take care of yourself.  Everyone reacts differently, based on personal experiences.  Sometimes it appears that there is no reaction at all, sometimes the reaction is immediate, and sometimes reactions are delayed.

Common Reactions to a death, near death or overwhelming events are:


  • Re-enacting the event over and over in your mind

Emotional reactions:

  • Feeling stressed
  • Feeling anxious
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling numb
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Apprehension

Physical reactions:

  • Tired most or all of the time - no energy
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating

Changes in Behaviors

  • Withdrawal
  • Increase in use of alcohol or drugs
  • Problems sleeping
  • Increase in risk-taking behaviors
  • An increase or decrease in appetite

What Can I Do to Feel Better?

  • Get involved in activities that you can start and finish in one day
  • Eat healthy foods and get physical exercise
  • Talk openly with a friend or person you trust about your feelings
  • Spend time doing things you enjoy, even if this is hard
  • Support a friend – this is remarkably healing
  • Listen to music you think is positive

When Do I Need to Get Additional Help?

  • If you continue to have trouble functioning normally, weeks or months after the event(s)
  • When you have a friend who has these reactions and is not getting better
  • When you have thoughts of harming or killing yourself or someone else
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed or out of control
  • When you are not taking care of yourself

Where Can I get help?

  • Parent, friend (who is not overwhelmed), or relative
  • School guidance counselor or nurse
  • Pastor or another adult you trust
  • Counseling services
Statewide Crisis Hotline: 1-888-568-1112