For many January the 20th is a difficult time of the year (Marking a car attack [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_2017_Melbourne_car_attack] in 2017, on Bourke Street, Melbourne). Around the anniversary of a traumatic event, some survivors have an increase in stress. These “anniversary reactions” can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to more extreme reactions with more severe symptoms.
Survivors may feel like they are going through the event again, as if they were back in the past. They might go out of their way to avoid people, places, and things related to the trauma. They may express more negative beliefs and feelings – like guilt or shame. Similarly, they may be more alert, nervous, or on edge.
There are several ways of coping with anniversaries, things like:
- Connecting to friends and family ahead of the anniversary
- Planning relaxing and enjoyable activities
- Purposefully marking the occasion by visiting a memorial or the grave of a loved one
Trauma-focused treatments such as Cognitive Processing Therapy can provide a long-term solution to the PTSD symptoms that anniversary reactions can bring on. It can help to deal with the beliefs and feelings that cause so much pain to people with PTSD. It can also prepare survivors with tools to use in the moment when an anniversary reaction comes up.