Traumatic events involve extreme stress where you may fear for your life or that of another person, such as having a child experience a burn injury. Seeing your child experience a burn may also bring back memories of other distressing experiences you have had in your life, such as a difficult birth, the onset of a health problem, or a bereavement. This can be very upsetting but it is important to know that this is not unusual. Finding opportunities to talk about what is happening with someone who is supportive and accepting will be beneficial. Click here to find out where you can access support.

Anyone who has been through a traumatic event may develop emotional and/or physical reactions and changes in behaviour. These fall into 3 main groups:

  1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event
    • Intrusive thoughts and images
    • Nightmares
    • Intense distress and physical reactions to things that remind you of the event
    • Flashbacks – feeling as though the traumatic event is happening again (you can read more about these below)
  2. Increased arousal:
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Irritability or angry outbursts
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Extreme alertness
    • Being easily startled or panicked
  3. Avoidance and emotional numbing:
    • Keeping busy to avoid reminders of the trauma
    • Repression – being unable to recall aspects of the trauma
    • Inability to express affection
    • Feeling detached or cut off and emotionally numb
    • Stop planning for the future
    • Loss of interest

Immediately after a traumatic event, these reactions are regarded as normal. Many people overcome them within a few months. If they persist, or get worse, they may be termed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I can only look back now and realise how significantly I was affected. I can recognise now that I would have received a diagnosis of PTSD. I was not in a good place.”

Most people find that they are affected by these unfamiliar, unusual experiences and feelings immediately after the injury, and this is an expected reaction to a traumatic experience. However, the lengthy treatment of burn injuries can mean that it may take a long time for people to start to feel better. For others, for a variety of reasons, recovery may be slower and may not occur without specialist help.

You should seek help if feelings like those described above:

  • continue beyond the first 3 or 4 months after your child’s injury
  • are intolerable
  • are affecting your quality of life.

You should also seek help if:

  • you have nowhere to turn for support
  • you are starting to depend on alcohol or drugs to help you cope
  • you feel suicidal.

Click here to find out where you can access support.

You can read about flashbacks by clicking on the tiles below.