The fighting between Israel and Gaza is over, for now. But experts say trauma persists – National
At 25, Emily Segal can tell the difference between the sound of a rocket crashing into Israel and an Iron Dome interception.
“It looked like a car accident to me,” she said of Israel’s missile defense system, which destroys rockets before they hit the ground by intercepting them with other rockets. “You literally hear a boom and then you feel the [building] shaking and you know it’s over until you have a few seconds before the next one. “
Before the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East, Segal, who lives with three other roommates in a mid-rise apartment building in Tel Aviv, considered Israel one of the safest places in the world for her. Now she said she was often nervous and loud noises caused panic.
When she leaves her apartment, she says that she is walking at high speed. The revving of a passing motorbike stops Segal in his tracks. And the sound of a single dish falling in the kitchen sends Segal and his roommates running to the nearest bomb shelter.
“It’s horrible,” she said. “Your heart really stops every time and your body tenses up. It’s something I didn’t even know existed, this feeling.
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Nourdine Jamal, a 24-year-old teacher living in eastern Gaza, does not have the benefit of living in an area protected by Iron Dome technology. Since the attacks began on May 10, he said his little sister had started sleeping in her bedroom.
“My sister, she continues to hold on to me every night because she is afraid of Israeli bombing,” he said. “When I look at his eyes, I see a heartbreaking scene in his eyes.
Living in Gaza, Jamal says even the prospect of going shopping outside terrifies him.
“You are afraid to go out. You are afraid that the warplane will target you by chance, ”he said.
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On May 21, Egypt negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to end the fighting. While the shelling may be over for now, experts say the trauma could be long lasting.
“The ceasefire is actually the start of a long struggle to cope with the traumatic experience they are going through,” Dr. Abdelfettah Elkchirid, assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, told Global News .
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also known as shell shock or combat stress, occurs after a person has experienced extreme trauma or a life-threatening event. Survivors with PTSD often relive traumatic events through vivid flashbacks or nightmares, experience severe distress when they come into contact with real or symbolic reminders of the trauma, and experience dramatic behavior changes.
The effects of PTSD can be immediate, such as exhaustion, but some can be residual.
“When it comes to the lasting effects, there is a lasting anger or sadness, lasting emotional outbursts and also a feeling of lasting depression,” he said. “Because everywhere you go you can see reminders of this violence. No matter what country you live in, you will see constant reminders of this violence months, sometimes even years after the violence is gone.
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For survivors, these feelings can manifest as heightened emotions such as a feeling of being constantly on high alert or a loss of confidence, either in themselves or in others.
Left unchecked, Elkchirid said it could lead to difficulties in building interpersonal relationships and maintaining healthy family relationships in the future. Trauma survivors may also begin to lose interest in things or activities they previously enjoyed out of fear that it would be taken away from them again, he added.
However, Elkchirid said: “You only start to feel this after the ceasefire, because before you plan in survival mode and you don’t have the time and energy to deal with the trauma that you just experienced. live.”
“You worry about your life, your safety, the life and safety of loved ones. Are we going to be successful tomorrow or tonight? He said, adding that the prolonged bombardments meant that both Israelis and Palestinians were constantly experiencing the trauma without having a chance to face it.
“On both sides, [they] doesn’t have time to process or start dealing with the trauma you are going through. “
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Trauma affects you too
According to Elkchirid, even the simple threat of harm to a loved one can trigger a traumatic-type experience and manifest as what is known as secondary or vicarious trauma.
“People who are here, for example, in Waterloo, Toronto or Kitchener might think that what happened thousands of miles away has not affected us,” he said. “This is indeed the case.
People who suffer from secondary trauma may exhibit unusual anger and irritability, feel overwhelmed, tired, emotionally numb or hopeless, engage in self-destructive coping mechanisms, reduce focus and experience images of trauma, who see the events over and over again.
Without a peaceful solution to the problem causing the trauma, Elkchirid, who specializes in practicing social work with refugees and survivors of war and torture trauma, said survivors and their loved ones would continue to live. regular trauma.
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When a traumatic event occurs, Dr. Eliana Suarez, associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, says a person’s amygdala, which is the center of emotions in the brain, becomes activated and highly charged.
Suarez, who specializes in post-conflict trauma and resilience, says the Broca region – which is responsible for language – becomes inundated with emotional memories, leading to higher levels of cortisol or stress. PTSD occurs when the nervous system is “blocked”.
“You have these memories and they don’t leave you alone,” she says.
According to Suarez, “we’re wired to survive” and adapt, no matter what.
But how a person heals from trauma depends on how safe they feel in their new surroundings and how the traumatic event has passed.
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“The basis of many interventions is actually to reduce these stressors for people who have survived trauma and just provide some kind of social support,” she says.
Suarez said that raising awareness and advocating for peaceful resolutions, rather than overwhelming a PTSD survivor with more confrontation, can help them feel both empowered and supported.
Encouraging PTSD survivors to channel their trauma outward to help others, volunteer with community members, and perform acts of service can also help foster a person’s resilience.
“That kind of focus on others than on yourself is one of the first expressions of a person, that kind of resilience,” she says.
According to Suarez, a person who has experienced even one traumatic event will likely enter a new state of normalcy – but it’s not a return to what they had before.
“You start to move forward again,” she said. “People not only survive, but they can thrive after that as well.”
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