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Coping with the Tucson Mass Shooting

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

“If they do feel like their reactions are becoming an impairment in their functioning … then they should seek additional help,” Vitanza said. This includes work and social life impairment.

She suggests not changing daily routines because of a certain tragic event.

Also, the reactions people have aren’t necessarily unusual.

“We try not to over-pathologize people,” Vitanza said. “People are probably having normal reactions to an abnormal event … it’s okay to have these different feelings.”

Libby Howell, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist in Tempe, has a specialty in relationships and trauma. She has had one client bring up the topic of the shooting so far, and she expects that more people will.

The unexpected and tragic nature of the event, as well as the death of the 9-year-old girl, seem to lead people to have a connection to the shooting, even if they weren’t present.

“Somebody at the age of 9 dying is even more unbelievable, and I think that triggers feelings of concern about their own safety and their family’s safety,” Howell said.

These type of events are kind of like “background noise” that people might not be aware of.

“It disregulates the nervous system,” Howell said. “If your nervous system is disregulated anyway in the case of prior trauma and a lot of anxieties, you’re already activated and this just further aggravates and activates your nervous system.”

Shutting down or feeling out of control are some effects of disregulation, she said.

“It’s something as a practitioner or clinician that I’m going to be aware of,” Howell said. “I’ll be sort of asking myself a question – how is this figuring in? Are people more disregulated, more agitated, more anxious because of it? More preoccupied?”

There can also be distrust and safety concerns.

“On the other hand … in a positive way maybe there’s a greater awareness of people one loves and reaching out more,” Howell said.

She has some advice more dealing with such a devastating event like the shooting.

“[Minimize] the amount of and [control] the amount of information,” Howell said. “It’s to be aware but not to overindulge in the drama.”

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.