To cope with crisis reactions it is important that those affected understand what is happening to them and why. By explaining common reactions you can support the affected person’s own capacity to handle the crisis.

Common reactions after a crisis can be grouped as following:

Increased physiological responses

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability/anger outbursts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Becoming easily startled
  • Restlessness and anxiety


  • Thoughts and images
  • Disturbing dreams
  • Reliving the incident
  • Intense emotions and physiological reactions when something triggers memories of the incident

Avoidance of elements associated with the incident

  • Thinking, feeling or talking about the incident
  • Activities, places or people
  • Remembering important aspects of the incident
  • Less interest in activities that used to be important before the incident
  • Feelings of alienation
  • Emotional numbness
  • Sense of a limited future

Perception and emotions
Immediately after a dramatic event, the perception of self and others may be altered. Expressing warm emotions and being close to someone can be challenging. Those affected may feel the need to distance themselves from others. Parts of the incident can be forgotten or difficult to talk about. Losing confidence and trust in other people and the world as a whole is also common.