Secondary Traumatic Stress
Most people are familiar with the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and they know it typically comes from directly experiencing traumatic and/or life threatening events such as abuse, combat, natural disasters, medical emergencies, accidents, or any number of events that fall outside the scope of our normal lives. Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS), also referred to as vicarious trauma, comes from indirect exposure to other people’s traumatic experiences. This is common to first responders who interact with the trauma as they try to help people, therapists who help people process through painful and upsetting experiences they have had, and even everyday people, supportive family members, or friends. One subtle venue that nearly everyone is exposed to is the media.
Can the Media Cause STS?
There is no shortage of graphic, gruesome, and difficult images and stories that we see and hear about in movies and through everyday news reports. Where secondary traumatic stress comes in is from the repeated and continuous exposure to these troubling images and stories over a period of time. In effect, there is a cumulative impact on people. This secondary traumatic stress can start to impair your functioning and affect your mental health and emotional well-being.
Symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress
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