What Is Emotional Shock?
While our bodies are equipped to handle a great many things in life, sometimes the situation is just too much. Our body begins to physically shut down and your body begins to prepare for "fight or flight."
Emotional shock often occurs after a traumatic event, in which someone's mental state of mind is affected. There are many potential causes for emotional shock, and each person reacts to situations, stress, and environment differently; however, there are some common situations that may spark a traumatic reaction. They include:
Bad news: When someone receives bad news, such as the news of a loved one's death, it is not uncommon to have a strong physiological reaction to the news. It can be overwhelming and devastating. Other bad news might be of a serious injury or accident of someone you know, crime, or other negative situations.
Good news: Not all shock is induced by bad news or bad situations. Sometimes people are subjected to really good news, such as that they received a large inheritance, a large benefit, or that something amazingly good has happened.
Traumatic events: Traumatic events are incidents such as accidents or severe illness.
Trauma or injury: This is major, critical, or life-threatening injury or illness. It can be caused for many reasons.
Stark Misfortune: Losing your home, vehicle, life savings can be stark misfortune, as well as natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, or losing your home to fire.
Victimization: Being a victim of a crime such as abuse, physical trauma, kidnapping, and other violent crimes can put a person in to a state of shock.
Military: Some people in the military are emotionally shocked because of the unique situations they are exposed to. In fact, PTSD used to be called "Shell-shocked" when referring to military. Because military soldiers are exposed to violence and fear, it can be very emotionally difficult.
How Does Emotional Shock Affect The Body?
Emotional shock is often not life-threatening. However, the body undergoes extreme stress reactions that can lead to greater physical issues. Some common symptoms of shock include:
- Racing pulse
- Weak pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Clammy skin
- Rapid breathing (Shallow)
- Blue lips
- Unable to form words
- Feeling distracted
Types Of Emotional Shock:
Emotional shock can be broken in to a few different category types.
Mild shock is when a person feels "stunned" for a period of time, they are confused or lost in thought. They may make it difficult to focus and be motivated. Often the symptoms last a short period of time, and the person is able to resume their normal activities.
Severe shock: is similar to mild shock but often there are more symptoms, more severe symptoms, and they last a longer amount of time. Severe shock may disrupt daily life and be difficult to recover from.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a form of severe and prolonged emotional trauma. Often the shock symptoms do not fade with time and are easily re-triggered by similar sounds, sights, smells, or visual cues, sending the body in to a full state of panic.
Some ways of distinguishing PTSD from other forms of shock is by the duration of symptoms, and whether or not the person avoids situations, has intrusive thoughts, and to what level their physiological system is activated by certain, related situations or cues.
Complications From Emotional Shock:
Long-term stress on the body is hard to maintain for an extended period of time, and it often leads the body or mind to compensate in ways that are not always healthy. For example, long or multiple bouts with anxiety may lead to an anxiety disorder.
Frequent issues with mood and temperament may lead to a mood disorder.
Substance abuse or self-injury are common coping mechanisms that are sometimes used in place of adequate coping mechanisms.
PTSD may be a long-term result of repeated traumatic situations or intrusive thoughts and triggers.
A person who has suffered from shock is also more likely to feel shocked in the future.
Children And Shock:
Children express emotional distress very differently than adults do, because they often have less frame of reference for how they feel, or the ability to effectively communicate how they feel. This is observed in how children express symptoms of shock, which can vary greatly from how adults express it.
No crying is a common indicator of shock, as is excessive crying, when the situation may deem crying a typical response.
Emotional affect is low or non-existent.
Confusion including disorientation, lack of eye contact, vacant expression, preoccupation.
Restlessness or hypervigilance.
Physical symptoms such as dryness in the eyes, clammy skin, hyperventilating, difficulty breathing or swallowing, posture issues.
Fear, Frustration, and Extreme Reactions
Diagnosis of Emotional Shock:
Diagnosing shock can be done by a health or mental health professional. Your doctor will likely review your physical self, your emotional state, history of the traumatic event, and discuss your self-report. It is important to work with a professional to diagnose and treat your shock before it becomes excessively disruptive to your every day life.
Treatment for Emotional Shock:
Treatment options may include therapy as an effective method of resolving traumatic issues, desensitization therapy may help you work through anxiety about the source of the trauma, anti-anxiety medication may treat anxiety, panic, and phobias, and mood-stabilizing medication may help even out your mood.
Emotional Shock Resources:
BBC News -Health - Article about different types of shock.