The Real Reason We Need To Be Supporting Kim Kardashian Right Now

Photo: James Devaney/Getty Images.
Update: Kim Kardashian has reportedly started professional counseling following the robbery in Paris. Continue to our original story below to learn more about the emotional and psychological effects of trauma.

This story was originally published on October 4, 2016.

Earlier this week (if you haven't already heard) Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris. As if that weren't disturbing enough, reports say she was also gagged and bound by the perpetrators, and that she feared for her life. Following this turn of events, Kardashian promptly left Paris for New York, understandably shaken. But unfortunately, many internet commenters chose this as an opportunity to victim-blame Kim.

Whether you love keeping up with the Kardashians (as we do) or not, criticizing Kardashian right now is cruel and unhelpful. Instead, we could (and should) use this opportunity to talk about how a truly scary event can affect your mental health. After all, Kim Kardashian is certainly not the only one to go through a traumatic event, whether that's a violent robbery or something else — and we could all use a few reminders about self-care and what to expect after you or someone you know experiences something like this.

In fact, a "traumatic event" can be anything from a car accident to a robbery to spending time in a war zone to a sexual assault to a medical emergency to something that happened way back in your childhood. Even if you simply witnessed an event like that, you might have some overwhelming feelings. Basically, if it's out of your norm and feels very threatening, it can be trauma.

It is also totally normal to have an ongoing response to trauma. In fact, most people experience stress reactions such as heightened anxiety, numbness, trouble concentrating, exaggerated startle response, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea following an event when they feared for their lives.
The first thing to do is just recognize what you're feeling — and accept it. Everyone reacts to trauma differently, and your response might also include more unexpected emotions, such as irritability or guilt.

This means there's no one "right" way to react to trauma, so whatever you're feeling is normal. The first step is to give yourself the okay to lean into those feeling and do what you need to do to feel better, including reaching out to those close to you (or a support group), giving yourself time to process the event, and engaging in healthy stress-relieving behaviors (e.g. eating well, exercising, relaxation techniques).

For most people, intense feelings following trauma will subside. The American Psychological Association recommends "build[ing] in some positive routines to have something to look forward to during these distressing times, like pursuing a hobby, walking through an attractive park or neighborhood, or reading a good book" to help aid your recovery. This can give you a healthy, distracting break. It's also good to re-establish your routine from before the event, or build in a new routine that helps you feel safe.

If you feel like your trauma-related feelings aren't getting better after about a month, or you're unable to get through your normal day, it might be time to seek professional help. About 20% of those who experience trauma may go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So you won't necessarily develop PTSD just because you have trauma in your life, but it may happen. The classic symptoms are reliving the event (for example, through flashbacks or dreams), and having anxiety around or avoiding situations related to the event. Others may develop symptoms of more general depression or anxiety after trauma.

But even if you don't think you're in danger of developing a mental health issue after your traumatic event, it might be a good idea to check in with a therapist for guidance and support.

It is not a stretch to believe that Kardashian could currently be in the throes of all of these symptoms. Of course, Kardashian has a lot of resources at her disposal that the rest of us might not have. But she also has her own set of challenges us plebes can't begin to imagine (lookin' at you, paparazzi). So let's give her the same level of empathy we'd give to any other human dealing with the aftermath of a terrifying, distressing circumstance.

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