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What are the psychological consequences of a burglary?

Reactions to trauma vary from person to person. They can last for hours, days, weeks, months, or years. Among the physical traumas, victims of burglary may suffer direct injuries as a result of a burglary or suffer traumatic shock afterwards.

What emotional trauma?

In extremely rare cases – given that confrontation with the burglar(s) is very rare – victims of burglary may suffer physical injuries. For most people who are robbed, what remains most difficult is undoubtedly the emotional trauma.

Victims may have especially intense stress reactions: accelerated breathing, high blood pressure and heart rate, insomnia... In terms of emotional trauma, victims may experience psychological injuries or emotional trauma that may have long-term effects.

Shock or numbness

Upon discovering the burglary, victims may feel cut off from their own emotions. Some say they feel like they are being projected in a film, rather than feeling their own emotions.

Denial, disbelief, and anger

Victims may experience denial, an unconscious defence against painful or unbearable memories. They may then experience disbelief and may feel intense anger, with a desire for redress at all costs.

Acute stress disorder

Some people may experience sleep disturbances, flashbacks (intense, vivid and repeated images of the traumatic experience), extreme tension, latent anxiety, memory problems, or other symptoms of emotional distress.

In the most severe cases, a person who has been robbed may be diagnosed as having an acute stress disorder if other mental disorders continue for some time. If these symptoms persist for over a month, the diagnosis is clear: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that occurs after a traumatic event. It translates as mental suffering and physical complications that profoundly affect a person’s personal, social, and professional life.

What to do if you are a victim of a burglary?

Every victim is different. You may experience shock, numbness, denial, disbelief, and anger. Following a burglary, the decisions to be considered are varied; there are different ways to recover from a burglary.

  1. See your doctor in the days following the burglary. Depending on your state of wellbeing, your doctor may suggest an appropriate treatment to help you start sleeping better, for example.

  2. See a therapist who can help you deal with the emotional impact of the burglary. At a distance from the event, the recommended first-line treatments are cognitive-behavioural or EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapies which aim to limit the mental and behavioural avoidance that prevents the traumatic memory from being integrated and processed as a normal memory.


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