What really happens to you when you experience a hijacking

Most times it is the smell that makes it traumatic for the victim to move beyond…

VICTIMS of hijackings and car thefts suffer the same symptoms and go through the same level of trauma as people who are exposed to a war zone or natural disaster.

According to the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often suffer panic attacks, resulting from the extreme fear they felt during the traumatic event. During an attack their throats tighten, while their breathing and heart rate increase, making them feel nauseous and dizzy.

If untreated, PTSD is often the gateway to depression, substance abuse and even suicide. Yet many who go through hijackings question the severity of their symptoms.

The emotional damage is subtle but undeniably traumatic in nature.

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De Wet Mouton from Tracker deals with victims of vehicle crime every day. “Emotions play a huge role after an unfortunate hijacking or vehicle theft.

Scientific studies show that our brains are traumatically rewired during and after trauma. PTSD sufferers’ thoughts and experiences are processed vastly differently to those without. The slightest trigger can cause a ‘fight or flight’ response that cannot be controlled.

Adrenaline surges through the body at inappropriate times, such as someone accidentally dropping a box. What would normally cause a simple startle reaction instead causes a person to react in a much more visceral way. This is known as hyper-arousal and is a major symptom.

Mouton continues, “Most times it is the smell that makes it traumatic for the victim to move beyond. In some cases the perpetrator has died in the car.”

This is a common by-product of a traumatic incident. SADAG’s Cassey Chambers confirms, “When victims are exposed to places, smells, sounds, or people that remind them of the trauma, or when they have memories or flashbacks of the incident, they often have panic attacks.”

While not every crime will lead to PTSD, it is essential not to brush off the seriousness of potential consequences. Getting appropriate counselling and giving the trauma time to heal is essential, as well as having plans in place that cater for those things that we might not always think of or want to deal with.


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