"Recently, I feel very irritable. I over-react to minor incidents. Even an innocuous questions, raise of an eye brow or a sarcastic smile by my husband might provoke a flare-up. I become tearful, use profanity and want to hit him. I am scared. What is wrong with me Mina?" She asked. My response to her question was "Have you been following the recent events in Iran?"
As witnesses to the atrocities perpetrated by IRI, Iranians living abroad identify with and are overwhelmed by what can be identified as vicarious traumatization. The symptoms are remarkably similiar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many report feelings of anxiety, sadness, despair, helpless rage, hypersensitivity, sleep disturbances, loss of control and irritability. The irritability is manifested externally by snappishness, overreaction to minor irritations and angry reaction to slight frustrations. (During the past week, we have seen flare ups among many people on this site, including the cool and grounded members !! Souri Jan who is a master of, "respectful sareh ja neshandan" has lost her cool here and there. Sweet Niloufar Parsi surprized herself by losing control on one occasion!! Affectionate statements.)
Subjectively, the state of irritation is perceived by many as an unpleasant "hypersensitiviy" and is made doubly uncomfortable by awareness of diminished self-control, which might lead to overreaction to minor incidents.
The disturbances of sleep, which almost always accompany the symptom of increased irritability, consist mainly in the frustrating experience of not being able to fall asleep/ stay asleep due to nightmares.
The severity and nature of such symptoms depend on the personality make up/history of individuals. Those who have been traumatized during revolution, especially the torture survivors can be extremely vulnerable.
The most profound and universal emotional reaction by many non- participant Iranians especially those living abroad, is known as "witness guilt" or "bystander guilt", feeling guilty for the fact that they have been spared the suffering that our hamvatans have to endure. Consequently, they may have difficulty enjoying the ordinary comforts and pleasure of their lives. Additionally, they may feel that their own actions are inadequate and/or they lack sufficient social commitment.
I hesitate to call such emotional reaction PTSD because, I also hear and see a sense of pride, hope, excitement, unity and detemination, that I have not seen for decades.
I hope to be able to write about the effective coping mechanisms, within the next week or two.
If you have any suggestions, please share them with us. Thanks.
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