Skip to main content

Signs and Symptoms of Critical Incident Stress

After a critical incident, people are likely to experience one or more of the following:

Physical reactions

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Nausea/vomiting
  3. Weakness
  4. Difficulty breathing
  5. Chest pains
  6. Rapid heart rate
  7. Headaches
  8. Dry mouth/always thirsty
  9. Elevated blood pressure
  10. Fainting/dizziness
  11. Exacerbation of allergy problems
  12. Symptoms of shock

Cognitive reactions

  1. Blaming attitude
  2. Confusion
  3. Reduced attention span
  4. Flashbacks
  5. Poor concentration/loss of confidence
  6. Negative self-talk/loss of confidence
  7. Decreased awareness
  8. Troubled thoughts
  9. Nightmares
  10. Easily distracted
  11. Short-term memory disturbance
  12. Time/place/person distortion

Emotional reactions

  1. Frustration
  2. Strong need for recognition of what they experienced
  3. Anxiety
  4. Guilt/feeling strongly for victims
  5. Sense of loss
  6. Anger
  7. Denial
  8. Fear of loss of control
  9. Irritability/agitation
  10. Depression
  11. Feeling overwhelmed
  12. Feeling isolated
  13. Loss of emotional control

Behavioural reactions

  1. Emotional outbursts
  2. Change in activity level
  3. Disturbed sleep
  4. Increase in smoking
  5. Easily startled/ hyper-vigilance
  6. Antisocial behaviour
  7. Withdrawal
  8. Change in eating habits (increase or decrease in food consumption)
  9. Difficulty relaxing
  10. Fidgety/restless
  11. Increased use of alcohol and other drugs
  12. Change in sex drive

Source: Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Program, Canada Border Services Agency - Pacific Region: CISM Mass Event Response Plan 2006 (PDF)

SOURCE: Signs and Symptoms of Critical Incident Stress ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Emergency Health Services. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2018 Provincial Health Services Authority.