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Delayed or Secondary Trauma

Information from Terri Watson, Associate Dean of Psychology
and Associate Professor of Psychology

Most people who experience or observe a traumatic event will experience an immediate stress reaction that, with the use of healthy coping strategies, eventually resolves without any lasting effect. However, some individuals may have delayed emotional, cognitive, or physical reactions that occur in days, weeks, or even months after a traumatic incident. Symptoms of a delayed reaction can include sleep disturbance, mood swings, fatigue, emotional detachment, flashbacks, social withdrawal, and / or sensitivity to triggers of the event.

In addition, individuals who are involved in a caregiving or supportive role (such as counselors, resident assistants, chaplains) may experience symptoms of secondary trauma from hearing and empathizing with the experiences of individuals who were directly impacted by the trauma.

It is important that faculty and staff are aware of the immediate, delayed, and secondary traumatic experiences and provide individuals in our community with appropriate resources which include social support, spiritual and emotional care, and encouragement to seek out counseling services.

For more reading on the types, symptoms, and helpful responses to trauma please reference this helpful information from the National Institutes of Health.