How our minds respond to watching traumatic experiences play out on TV and online

Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Watching trauma replay on tv and online can bring up suppressed emotions
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Experts say our minds respond in many ways when our emotional and physical safety is threatened.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As we wait for the impeachment trial to start, people are speaking out about their fears and the idea that something like the riots could happen again.

Debra Mollen, a psychology professor at Texas Woman's University, says we experience a trauma response when our emotional and physical safety is threatened in real and tangible ways.

She says seeing violence played out on TV can bring up suppressed feelings for anyone who has lived through any form of violence or abuse.

"Not only is it valid, it's extremely common," Mollen said. "I think that it makes good sense that when we see something that amounts to domestic terrorism that we have our own feelings about it. And the more that we see, the more traumatizing it is."

Mollen says about 35% of women worldwide will have an experience of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Battering by way of relationship violence is the single-highest cause of injury to women worldwide

"The most important thing is that if somebody is having a trauma response to what we witnessed at the Capitol that they seek help, whether that's informal help or help by way of speaking with a psychologist or some form of therapist. There's a lot of good assistance online. For some people that may be reaching out to a family member," Mollen said.

The following are other things Mollen says people can do to help with trauma responses:

Practice good self care

Get out of the house

Movement or fitness

Good sleep hygiene

Family members or friends should respond with compassion and empathy.

Sometimes the best response seems simple, but meet their feelings with understanding. Let them know you are there for them and willing to listen without judgement.

If you are looking to talk to a professional, here are two good places to start:

APA Psychologist Locator

Psychology Today

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