Trauma Related Stress: Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of critical incident and cumulative stress are similar in some ways – partly by-products of adrenalin – and pertly psychological and physical. This adrenalin response is good for dealing with emergencies, but there are serious side effects as well.

There are three groups of symptoms:

Events re-experienced:

  • Intrusive thoughts, memories

  • Dreams

  • Flashbacks

  • Distress at something that symbolises the trauma


  • Sleep problems

  • Anger outbursts, irritability

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Hypervigilence

  • Exaggerated responses

  • Physiological reactivity at symbolic event

Avoidance or Numbing

  • Avoid associated thoughts/feelings

  • Avoid activities that trigger memories

  • Can't remember important parts of trauma

  • Not able to have fun as usual

  • Detachment from others

  • Unable to have loving feelings

  • Foreshortened future