What is survivor syndrome and how to deal with it?

  • 26.5.2022
  • Written by Vladyslava Rykova
  • Category: News

Probably every Ukrainian in recent months has been traumatized to one degree or another, even if direct hostilities bypassed him. Those who escaped from the hot spots or remained safe from the very beginning feel shame in front of those on whom the war completely dumped its terrible consequences. In psychology, this phenomenon is called Survivor’s Guilt Syndrome.

Others Worse Than Me: What is Survivor Syndrome

Що таке синдром уцілілого та як із ним боротися?

It would seem that people should be glad that the survivors survived. But no: they are gnawed by remorse, and sometimes they even begin to blame themselves for what happened. While a full-scale war is going on in Ukraine, unleashed by an aggressor neighbor, many of those who are now in relatively safe conditions feel guilty that the level of threat to their lives is weaker than others.

“Everything is calm with us, and I’m ashamed”, “Why are they, and not me?”, “Now is not the time to complain, it’s even worse for many”, “How can I eat when someone is really hungry?”, “Do I deserve am I on a restful sleep? – such and other similar opinions are visited by those who today only from afar are watching the tragedy unfolding on our lands.

At the same time, those who have traveled abroad or to a safer Ukrainian city may be able to overcome the syndrome of the departed. They may also feel guilty that they were able to leave while others stayed and were in danger.

People with these syndromes may be plagued by obsessive feelings and emotions. For example, helplessness, sleep problems, lack of appetite, unpleasant thoughts, aggressiveness and irritability, nausea or stomach pain, headaches, social isolation, and sometimes even suicidal thoughts. These symptoms may be exacerbated if the person has previously had a traumatic experience or is prone to anxiety and depression.

During the war, this condition haunts many. In anxiety, stressful conditions and emergency situations, a person tries to find a rational explanation for why he survived.

However, not everyone has this feeling of guilt, and this is also a normal reaction to trauma. Rejoicing in your own talent and at the same time mourning the fate of others is also normal.

What to do with destructive thoughts and how to overcome guilt?

First of all, it is necessary to understand: it is not the fault of Ukraine and Ukrainians that Russia attacked us. Only the aggressor should be blamed, never the victim. To get rid of self-blame, look at the political relations between the two countries. Remind the true reasons for the invasion and direct negative emotions at the enemies, not at yourself.

It is possible to be sad because of the fate of other people, it is natural if you have a soul. But you don’t need to put pressure on yourself by saying that it’s easier for you and harder for them. If you do not experience the joy of your salvation and the pleasure of daily activities, do not try to artificially provoke these emotions, “for it is necessary.” Understand that through guilt, sympathy, people help those who are in trouble. This is what makes us unite, to do something not only for our own survival, but also for the survival of those who are important to us – family, friends, the whole country.

If you have the desire and opportunity, you can help others: transfer funds to support the Ukrainian army or for humanitarian aid; engage in volunteering, coordinate activities, provide psychological support to loved ones, acquaintances, or donate blood.

In any case, it is necessary to separate areas of responsibility: there is something that you can influence, and there is something that, unfortunately, is beyond your control. If you can join the ranks of the military, the defense or volunteer movement, great. If not, don’t blame yourself for this: you can help Ukrainians in a different way, both from the rear and from abroad. At the same time, make sure that your salvation was not in vain.

Your main task is to save your life and guarantee yourself a safe space: follow the rules of war, recognize fakes, take seriously the appeals and appeals of the leadership of the region and the country.

In addition, you can always use social networks and spread information about the needs of the army, doctors, and civilians. You can try to open the eyes of what is happening in Ukraine to your relatives and friends abroad. If you went to another country, you can help other refugees with asylum and translation work, as well as go to rallies in support of Ukraine.

It is very important to talk to people who are experiencing the same emotions. It should be remembered that it is impossible to physically take on the pain and suffering of others, but Survivor Guilt Syndrome is something that many of us are spurred into action. Unity and mutual support not only bring victory over a common enemy closer, but also heal spiritual wounds. Do not despair, believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine – the truth is on our side!

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Vladyslava Rykova

Expert in legal marketing. Head of marketing agency MAVR.

Business degree “Master of Business Administration” (MBA).

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