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What to do if you can’t get shocking images from your retina – Insurance for Pets

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A woman looks sad while working at her laptop in the evening

Photo from Mapodile via Getty Images

I only saw his face for one second. Actually, it was my own fault – I was stupid enough to check out some photos on an Instagram account about exotic pets, which had the caption, « Warning, this hunter is getting a hogweed in the face! »

I can still see the picture in front of me. His injuries, the loose pieces of skin dangling from his face, the thumbs up towards the camera. If only I had never seen it all.

The internet is full of intense images. Whether you go looking for it or not, chances are you will see one – especially since images regularly go viral in which violence takes place. It’s awful to watch and hard to erase from your memory. Add to that racism, sexism, homophobia or transphobia and everything gets even more damaging. In an investigation published in 2018 in The Lancet For example, it found that black adults in the United States experienced significant mental health problems after watching videos of unarmed black people being murdered by the police. They did not know these people themselves.

According to Sheryl Ankrom, clinical advisor and director of clinical services at Lifeline Behavioral Healthcare, personal trauma play a major role in the extent to which you are triggered online by intense images. “When people in a marginalized group see images that relate to their own group, they will react strongly to it,” she tells VICE. Victims of violence can also be quickly triggered when they see images of similar situations. « Then they can be reminded of past experiences in such a way that it almost seems as if they are experiencing it again. »

Ankrom emphasizes that not everyone necessarily gets negative reactions when they see violent content. “But when we see images like that and we find them offensive, it can lead to a trauma-related response that you can compare to the fight-or-flight response,” she says. Your stress level and ability to separate things play a big part in the way you respond.

Exposure to these types of images can have major consequences. Facebook was not for nothing a few years ago taken to court by moderators, who felt that the company did not protect them enough from the consequences of judging shocking images. Last year, Facebook paid in total 52 million dollars (or about (48 million euros) to thousands of moderators who had suffered psychological complaints.

But what can you do if you have seen terrible images that you cannot get from your retina? That works differently for everyone, but we have listed a number of possible ways here.

Pay attention to your physical complaints

You can get both physical and psychological complaints if you see violent images. And by paying attention to the former, you may be able to prevent many of the latter. Shortly after you see images triggering a fear response, your breathing will be shallower and your muscles tense – two things that will make you produce more hormones like adrenaline to put you in survival mode. “You then get a lot of energy and strength to prepare yourself to survive,” says Ankrom. « While you don’t need all of that in this case, of course. »

In that regard, two things are important: breathe deeply and calmly and relax your muscles. « By taking a deep breath, your brain receives the message that everything is under control and substances are released that actually help you to relax. » You would also combine it with other soothing things, such as consciously telling yourself that it will all be fine, but this is the basis.

Take a step back, literally and figuratively

As soon as you see images that upset you, it is also not a bad idea to just click those images away immediately – if you can. If it is too late, it is best to take a physical distance from the situation. « If you’ve just experienced something offensive, it’s best to distance yourself from that trigger, » says Ankrom. « Walk away from the computer for a moment, shut yourself off from those images, take a walk. »

According to Ankrom, it is also a good idea to immediately turn the button by, for example, listening to music, watching your favorite series or calling a good friend. That way you get back on the ground with both feet and hopefully you won’t grind too much about it.

You cannot prevent intrusive thoughts, but you can interrupt them

Sometimes nasty images linger in your head for a little longer. And according to Ankrom, it is not at all surprising if that happens for days or even weeks. “You don’t just prevent that, they impose themselves and automatically end up in your mind,” she says. « Certainly when you get triggered and memories come back, a stress reaction can arise again. »

Fortunately, she says there are several ways to send your thoughts in a different direction. One is trying to actively stop your thoughts. “When you catch yourself having thoughts like this, you can consciously choose to interrupt them and say ‘stop’,” she says. « It’s difficult, but the more often you manage to redirect your thoughts, the easier it becomes and the more automatic it becomes. »

In addition to these kinds of mental tricks, according to Ankrom, you can also focus on your body, for example by relaxing your muscles and taking better care of yourself – by eating well, sleeping and exercising. If the memories of the images don’t disappear within a month, she thinks it is not a bad idea to seek professional help so that you can find out why you get stuck in them so much.

Take preventive measures

You can prevent videos from playing automatically by simply turn off autoplay on social media and your browser, and on Instagram not just clicking through if there is a warning about this sensitive content. You can of course also just sit a little less on social media, or at least temporarily avoid the platform where you get to see intense things the fastest.

In addition, it can also be a good idea to ask yourself why you are viewing these types of images. Chances are that – especially in the past year – you have spent a lot of time behind your screen and watched terrible things pass by. You may feel obliged to watch them because you feel you need to face reality. Think of patients in intensive care or people being beaten up in public. But don’t feel compelled to look at things that might be harmful to you. Avoiding violent images is not the same as burying your head in the sand – it means taking good care of yourself so that you can get back to it afterwards.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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