What is vicarious trauma?
Signs and Symptoms
- Feeling off, like you can’t connect to others or feel good about yourself – it can feel like you’re playing a part in a play and not being “in” your life
- Personality changes – feeling mean or cynical
- Misplaced guilt at your own good fortune
- Feeling like your emotions are out of control
- Relationship problems
- Physical issues
- aches and pains
- getting ill more often
- being more clumsy
- Difficulty making good decisions
- A feeling of disconnection to what is important and a loss of meaning and hope in life
- Difficulty managing boundaries – taking on too much, feeling responsible for things that our not your responsibility, taking on other’s problems as your own.
- Increasing substance use or commencing substance use (taking up smoking).
How to go about seeking help
Some helpful tips to maintain mental health:
- Escape – make sure to take time for yourself unrelated to work – physically or mentally. Read books, listen to podcasts (note; not related to trauma), talk to friends about things other than work. Mindfulness apps, Mood tracking apps like woebot are a good way to monitor your mood over time to see if this is changing subtly, beneath your consciousness.
- Rest – allow yourself to do things with no expectation (non-goal directed activity). Go for a walk with no destination, nap during the day, sip a cup of tea mindfully, get a massage, have a bath.
- Play – Look at your current activities and decide which are nurturing and which are depleting e.g., reading to your children might feel nurturing, while cleaning may not feel nurturing. Be sure to do more of the nurturing activities than depleting ones.
- Be honest – sometimes people helping others feel they must meet every need presented. If you start feeling dread, discomfort, despair or annoyance this needs to be respected as a sign that you may start to be experiencing trauma.
Where to get help
- Peer supervision – the process of reflection on your experience in a safe and respectful way can help us process and contextualise the discomfort experienced
- ABTA Peer2Peer Support Program
- Speak to your GP – perhaps ask for a Mental health Care Plan to allow you to speak to a professional about your experience
- Phone counselling service
- Peer support through online forums may normalise your experience.