Vicarious Trauma (VT): History & Research (3)

Risk Factors:

Risk factors are realities that make you more vulnerable to experiencing vicarious trauma or experiencing more severe vicarious trauma. Understanding your risk factors will make it easier to identify what might help you prevent or address vicarious trauma.

More details of signs and symptoms of VT:

  1. Those who have experienced trauma themselves may identify more closely with the types of pain or loss others have experienced and may be more vulnerable to experiencing vicarious trauma.
  2. Added stress in other areas of your life can make you more vulnerable to vicarious trauma.
  3. Lack of good social support puts you at increased risk for vicarious trauma.
  4. A lack of connection with a source of meaning, purpose, and hope risks developing more complex vicarious trauma.
  5. Unsustainable professional and work-life boundaries and unrealistic ideals and expectations about work can contribute to more complex vicarious trauma.
  6. Different situations present different challenges. However, research suggests that humanitarian workers who have more trauma survivors are likely to experience more complex vicarious trauma.
  7. Humanitarian organizations that don’t foster an organizational culture of effective management, open communication, and good staff care increase their staffs’ risk of vicarious trauma.
  8. People who have experienced traumatic events can react and interact in ways that humanitarian workers find frustrating and bewildering. Over time this can contribute to humanitarian workers’ experiences of vicarious trauma.
  9. Cultural intolerance can increase humanitarian workers’ risk of experiencing vicarious trauma in various ways.
  10. Not understanding cross-cultural differences in expressing distress and extending and receiving assistance can increase the risk of vicarious trauma.
  11. Humanitarian work as a profession is often characterized by self-neglect, toughing it out, risk-taking, and denial of personal needs. All of these can contribute to more severe vicarious trauma.
  12. Vicarious trauma results from psychological and spiritual disruptions that affect how we see ourselves, the world, and what matters most to us. It leads to VT’s physical, psychological, spiritual, relational, and behavioral signs.
  13. Vicarious trauma influences how you act and interact with people you love. It affects your family and friends.
  14. Vicarious trauma can negatively affect your work, your colleagues, the overall functioning of the organization, and the quality of assistance being provided to those you are working to help.
  15. An effective action plan for addressing vicarious trauma will reflect your own needs, experiences, interests, resources, culture, and values.
  16. Coping with vicarious trauma means identifying strategies that can help prevent vicarious trauma from becoming severe and help manage vicarious trauma when it is more problematic.
  17. Good coping strategies for vicarious trauma are things that help you take care of yourself – especially those that help you escape, rest, and play.
  18. Transforming vicarious trauma means identifying ways to nurture a sense of meaning and hope.

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