Graveyard Shift

What Happens to Your Body When You See Another Person Die  

Jeff Richard
255.8k views 10 items

Let's start off with the good news: you were not struck down by bullets, and you are alive and well. The bad news? The person next to you wasn't so lucky. This other list covers what's going on with the deceased person by your side, but what about you? You just saw someone perish. Do you know what happens to you after witnessing such an event? 

Luck is on your side in the grand scheme of things, but there have been countless stories about the side effects of witnessing a shooting or other event of similarly traumatic effect. There are psychological effects, ones that linger for a lifetime. Stress, nightmares, mood swings are all long-term concerns after witnessing someone's shocking passing. And then there's the short term stuff, the panic - hyperventilating, tunnel vision, and slowing of time. Read on to learn about recovering from seeing someone perish in a shocking way.

Your Mind Perceives Time As Slowing Down
Your Mind Perceives Time As Sl... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list What Happens to Your Body When You See Another Person Die
Photo:  The Matrix/Warner Bros

There's a brief pocket of time after you witness someone pass during which the mind tries to process what happened. The same goes for hearing a gunshot - if you're involved in that kind of situation. As a result, your brain perceives that moment in time as slower than normal. 

According to "Deadly Force Encounters: What Cops Need to Know to Mentally and Physically Prepare for and Survive a Gunfight," published by Dr. Alexis Artwohl and writer Loren Christensen in 1997, 63% of survivors said that "events seemed to be taking place in slow motion and seemed to take longer to happen than they really did."

There's A Good Chance You Will Immediately Dissociate Yourself
There's A Good Chance You Will... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list What Happens to Your Body When You See Another Person Die
Photo:  Enemy/A24

Described by Stanford psychiatry professor Keith Humphreys as a "psychological form of self-protection," the act of dissociating from the realities of witnessing someone perish is common. Humphreys, in a frank discussion, describes the time he and his wife saw someone plowed over by speeding cars on the freeway.

In the immediate aftermath of witnessing such a horrifying scene, the mind tends to recoil, which dulls the senses as shock sets in. 

Your Skin Goes Pale As A Result Of Shock
Your Skin Goes Pale As A Resul... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list What Happens to Your Body When You See Another Person Die
Photo: Unknown/PX Here/Public Domain

The primary effect of sudden shock is the rapid loss of blood pressure. In the case of witnessing another person's passing, fear kicks in quickly, which results in blood leaving the skin and heading straight for the muscle arteries as a way to compensate.

This leaves your skin extremely pale, due to the lack of blood circulating through it. 

You May Experience A Sudden Loss Of Motor Skills
You May Experience A Sudden Lo... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list What Happens to Your Body When You See Another Person Die
Photo:  Pinocchio/Disney

The sudden loss of motor skills in the wake of witnessing the traumatic occurrence of someone's intense end is fairly common. This phenomenon is known as non-medical shock, and it occurs because the anxiety surging through your body affects your brain.

This makes it difficult for your mind to relay signals to the rest of your body that it's fight-or-flight time.