Ohio State Navbar

About the Department

Understanding Crisis: The Basics

Understanding Crisis: The Basics

Millions of people are confronted with trauma-inducing events requiring immediate help from family, peers and mental health professionals. What follows are tips outlining the basics of managing a crisis (Yeager, 2009).

Crisis: A temporary disruption of psychological balance wherein usual coping mechanisms fail.

Critical Incidents: Events that have the potential to create significant human distress and can overwhelm one’s usual coping mechanisms.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Psychological Trauma


  • Mood swings
  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Irritability or numbness
  • Impatience
  • Excessive tension
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling isolated
  • Feeling misunderstood
  • Feeling guilty or helpless
  • Feeling fear/anxiety or self-doubt


  • Forgetfulness or short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Decreased levels of judgment and insight
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Increased negative thoughts
  • Racing thoughts
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Amnesia for the event


  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Over or under eating
  • Increased alcohol, cigarette or drug use
  • Overreacting to unexpected problems
  • Procrastination
  • Displaced anger and feelings of inadequacy
  • Tendency toward isolation
  • Obsessive behavior ( such as an over attention to small details)


  • Headaches or backaches
  • Muscle tension and stiffness
  • Insomnia
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Vivid dreaming
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)
  • Increased susceptibility to illness
  • Decreased libido

How Psychological Trauma Affects Physical Health

Cumulative stress reactions have a negative impact on health. Many medical conditions are caused or exacerbated by stress and untreated psychological trauma, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heartburn
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Skin problems
  • Autoimmune diseases

How to Help Someone Else

If a friend, loved one or colleague is suffering from psychological trauma, here is how you can help:

  • Remain calm
  • Do not encourage the person to retell the traumatic story or discuss the event
  • Offer support and help the person focus on keeping their life as normal as possible
  • Remain neutral
  • Provide reassurance of safety and support
  • Support the trauma victim by connecting them with professionals
  • Pay attention to self-care (theirs and your own).  Be aware of basic care, such as eating and sleeping

Available Resources:

If you feel someone is in immediate danger, call 911

Ohio State Behavioral Health's Outpatient Services: 614-293-9600

STAR Program Line: 614-293-STAR (7827)

Talbot Hall Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services: 614-257-3760