Valiant Living Blog

5 Ways to Cope on the Anniversary of a Traumatic Event

Written by Valiant Living Recovery on Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

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The anniversary of a traumatic event can evoke feelings of despair and make us relive the experience, bringing back symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. These feelings can be overwhelming and take a toll on our physical and mental health.

The reaction to the traumatic event varies by each individual. Sometimes, the mind remembers unconsciously and can spike a psychological reaction due to the weather, sound, smell, or seasonal reminders like the first signs of winter.

First responders

Many first responders struggle with mental health issues such as depression or PTSD. Addiction and mental health issues often have a direct relationship with one another as co-occurring issues. For many first responders of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the anniversary of a tragic event can trigger PTSD and drug or alcohol use as a way to cope. PTSD and substance use disorders often coexist and they can be treated more-effectively as a dual diagnosis.

People suffering from PTSD often have flashbacks and relive the event repeatedly. They may avoid certain places or people and can be easily startled and have angry outbursts. Serena Gordon wrote an article for Healthday News (2018) on new research that suggests PTSD may put 9/11 first responders’ hearts at increased risk for heart and stroke.

5 ways to cope on the anniversary of a traumatic event

  1. Prepare in advance. Remove stressors and see a therapist more frequently as needed.
  2. Commemorate. Consider making a specific plan that relates directly to your loss or trauma.
  3. Remind yourself it is temporary. The distressing symptoms of the anniversary should dissipate in time.
  4. Understand that symptoms can appear on other dates. Many people experience heightened symptoms of mental health conditions on holidays, during winter months, and even birthdays.
  5. Find support. Do not be ashamed to ask for help, even if it is many years after the traumatic event.

The CDC (2012) states that more than 60,000 people worked on the rescue and recovery effort in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This includes volunteers with no prior training and experienced police officers and firefighters. According to the study’s senior author, Dr. Alfredo Morabia, “PTSD’s link with a heart attack and stroke should be taken into consideration when untrained first responders are sent to respond to catastrophes of different types.”

Mental health is particularly important to study in the context of disasters, because often in such events as 9/11, loved ones are lost suddenly, horrifically, and unexpectedly.

Treatment is available

Addiction and mental health are treatable and there is hope in recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and a mental health condition, get help today. Do not let the stigma prevent you from getting the help you need. Asking for help is the first step to a healthy, meaningful, and fulfilling life.

Offering a full range of recovery and mental health services, Valiant Living offers “Expanded Recovery” to enrich our clients’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. Through evidence-based therapy options and the endless adventure of Colorado, Valiant fosters connection, encouraging clients to get connected to themselves, their peers, their families, and their higher power. With the power of recovery, clients are restored to full health and experience life-changing healing. Call us today for more information: 303-536-5463