What is secondary trauma?


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Can you be traumatized by something that did not happen to you?

Secondary trauma.

Secondary trauma is the traumatic result of watching someone else be injured or their life threatened.  It is just as real as if the incident happened to you and can last long after the incident is over.

One place where we saw a lot of secondary trauma, this might also go by the name of vicarious trauma, were the incidents of September 11th. Children who watched the planes fly into the towers over and over on Television became frightened even though the events were thousands of miles away. They believed, because of the repeated showings, that thousands of planes were hitting thousands of buildings and that any moment the planes might hit buildings in their neighborhood.

This points out that events do not need to happen to you to be traumatic.  Watching a close family member be injured or killed can be as traumatic as if it happened to you. One reason there seems to be more Post-traumatic Stress Disorder among military veterans is the number of horrific incidents they witness during a tour of duty.

Watching others you are close to being killed or injured has a traumatic effect on you even if you are far enough away to escape injury.

Humans are endowed with very vivid imaginations. This raises the question can people be traumatized by fictional things, things that never happened?

As we grow older our ability to distinguish reality from fiction should improve. Young children are not always able to tell the difference. Plenty of children develop fears, night terrors or long-term phobias because adults watch horror or other graphic entertainment. They allow the kids to watch along with them since the adults are not overly frightened they expect the child to be able to understand the difference.

Unfortunately many young children these days are not able to tell the real from the imaginary especially in video format where great effort has been expended to make the horror as realistic as possible.

So whether the trauma was real or imagined, whether it happened to you or someone you know and care about, those traumas can and do traumatize people. We call this trauma, secondary traumatization because the victim of the physical attack may not be the person who suffers the most or the longest.

If you have been traumatized by watching someone else be harmed, there is help available. If your child develops fears or phobias after watching a video, talk with them about reality and fiction. If the problems continue, get professional help.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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