Don’t Repost That! 4 Dangers Of Seeing Disturbing Images Over Again

ThinkstockPhotos-536093067You see it: over and over and over again in your social media news feed and on TV. But do you realize just how that can affect your emotional state as well as someone else’s? From 24-hour cable news to YouTube and Twitter, today’s mass media can turn local disasters into international events within minutes, transmitting the impact of a disaster far beyond those who are directly exposed.

Indeed, while tens of thousands of people directly experienced the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, millions more viewed the attacks and their aftermath via the media, turning the attacks into what researchers call a collective trauma.

Post-traumatic stress disorder specialists say that even limited viewing of such menacing and heinous violence could be psychologically harmful.

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Extensive exposure to 2014’s Boston Marathon bombing media coverage caused more acute stress in people watching on TV, online or listening to radio reports than in those experiencing the terrorist attack itself, researchers at UC Irvine have found.

Even the study authors who specialize in researching trauma impacts said they were startled by their findings: People engaged in six or more hours of bombing accounts — even without visuals –- were nine times more likely to report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the bombing victims.

E. Alison Holman, associate professor of nursing science at UC Irvine states “There is mounting evidence that live and video images of traumatic events can trigger flashbacks and encourage fear-conditioning. If repeatedly viewing traumatic images reactivates fear or threat responses in the brain and promotes rumination, there could be serious health consequences.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the four types of PTSD symptoms are:

1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)

Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:
You may have nightmares.
You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.

2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:
You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.