Common Reactions to Violence

Many people are affected by violence. People who have been direct victims of violence as well as family friends and others connected to the victims may react to a violent event.

Whether violence happens to you, or to someone you know, it is normal to feel it personally. People who are direct victims of violence often have physical and emotional reactions that can last for a long time. But other people – family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, emergency service personnel, witnesses to the violence, or those who have something in common with the victims – may also be affected by a particularly violent event. Although each person reacts differently, according to their personality, past experiences, and connection to the event, there are some common feelings and emotions that often occur in those who have been involved in or have heard about a violent event.

Some common reactions to violence and trauma are listed below. Each person may have one or several of these reactions. Printer-friendly version


  • Memory Loss
  • Difficulty Making Decisions
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Losing Track of Time
  • Flashbacks
  • Replaying the Event


  • Feeling Helpless or Powerless
  • Grief, Numbness
  • Fear or Safety Concerns
  • Guilt
  • Vulnerability
  • Reliving Prior Trauma
  • Mood Swings
  • Nightmares
  • Suicidal Thoughts


  • Fatigue
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Eating Problems
  • Nausea, Diarrhea
  • Sweating, Rapid Pulse, Chest Pains
  • Back or Neck Pain
  • Being Easily Startled
  • Catching Colds or Flu


  • Loss of Faith
  • Questioning Faith
  • Spiritual Doubts
  • Withdrawal from Faith Community
  • Lapses in Spiritual Practice
  • Despair


  • Withdrawing from or Clinging to Others
  • Alienation from Friends, Family
  • Breakdown in Trust
  • Changes in Sexual Activity
  • Doubts About Relationships
  • Feeling Co-Workers Don’t Understand
  • False or Distorted Views of Others
  • Alternating Demanding or Distant with Others
  • Irritability