Shootings: A Sense of Familiar Trauma

In recent news, and over the years passed, it seems like every other news article is about a shooting that has occurred.  From the recent shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, to the Pulse nightclub in 2016 and Sandy Hook elementary in 2012, and going back to Columbine in 1999, it seems like shootings have heart-achingly become a part of our lives.

Loss of life is a tragedy and can take its toll.  With these most recent shooting, you may have found yourself scrolling through news articles, grabbing at all the information you can.  Or the opposite: you may have found yourself wanting to unplug, the information being too overwhelming or too upsetting.  You may have felt feeling of sadness, fear, confusion, or anger and noticed yourself feeling worn out, drained, or paralyzed.

These are common responses to a trauma, and often times can resolve on their own.  According to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual – 5 (DSM-5), having a certain amount of these symptoms for a certain period of time meets the criteria meet the definition for acute stress disorder, or if the symptoms go on for a long enough duration, the more well-known diagnosis of PTSD can apply.

These symptoms may feel particularly familiar given the sheer number of shootings we are exposed to in the United States.  In 2021, there have been 126 reported mass shootings so far[1], with a mass shooting being defined as, “the numeric value of 4 or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.”[2]  At least 2,000 people have been killed or injured in mass shootings since 1999[3].  As the feelings mentioned earlier come up for you, you may find yourself reminded of other traumatic events or losses in your life.  And if you are a member of the targeted victim population, such as with the Georgia spa shooting or with Pulse night club, this can also evoke a variety of upsetting feelings and reactions.

With trauma, until the events are processed, they can keep coming up for people in challenging ways.  These can include reacting more strongly to certain situations, becoming hypervigilant, not wanting to leave the house, isolating from other, feeling disconnected, or experiencing flashbacks.  With trauma, including familiar trauma, these symptoms may keep coming up until the upsetting experiences are processed, that is, moved from “trauma space” to the long-term storage center of our brains.  This way, if an upsetting event comes up in the future that is similar to what has been experienced, it may not feel as “big” or we may recover more quickly.  Several therapy methods have been particularly helpful with trauma resolution, one of those being EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)[4].  At Labyrinth Psychological Services, most of our therapists are trained in this, as well as other techniques with a trauma-informed approach.  If you find yourself or those you know experiencing these or other distressing symptoms, we can help!  You can reach out intake line at 508-797-7110 to get started.






This blog was written by Nikki Gamache, LMHC.

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