The actress isn't alone. We talked to an expert about how to deal with all of the unnerving headlines coming across your screen.

By Faith Brar
Updated: November 14, 2017

Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Sexual assault is anything but a "new" issue. But since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced in early October, a barrage of headlines have continued to flood the internet, unveiling the sexual misconduct of powerful men. While this has given rise to the #MeToo movement, allowing women across the globe-including Reese Witherspoon and Cara Delevingne-to feel safe enough to come forward with their own harrowing stories, the opening of Pandora's box, so to speak, hasn't come without side effects. All this disturbing news coverage has also become a powerful trigger for some survivors of sexual abuse and assault.

Actress Evan Rachel Wood, who's also been open about her experience with sexual assault, is admitting on social media that she's experiencing some setbacks in her own recovery because of the ceaseless and unnerving stories. "Has anyone [else's] PTSD been triggered [through] the roof?" she wrote on Twitter. "I hate that these feelings of danger are coming back."

Not all people who've been sexually assaulted suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but those who do can experience flashbacks and feelings of depression and anxiety as a result of things they smell, feel, and see-like news reports about sexual abuse.

"PTSD can be immediate or late onset, and it's hard to know what might trigger those feelings," says Kenneth Yeager, Ph.D., director of the Stress, Trauma, and Resilience (STAR) program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Something as simple as watching news coverage can trigger feelings of stress and anxiety," he explains.

That's why it wasn't surprising that hundreds of Twitter users related to Wood's feelings and showed their appreciation for her candidness. "There's so much I need to process and it's overwhelming me," wrote one user about the influx of news surrounding sexual harassment and assault. "I read your tweets and they spoke to me. Kudos for your courage, you're inspiring people everywhere."

"It's mentally exhausting," wrote someone else. "Comforting to know I'm not alone but devastating and consuming to know so many others know it."

One of the best ways to cope with some of these feelings is to build a support system, says Yeager. "Know who you can talk to if you're feeling stressful or anxious," he says. "It could be a spouse or a sibling, or perhaps a coworker or therapist, but it should be someone you trust."

While avoidance may not be the most effective way to deal with your emotions-know that sometimes it's okay to step away if you find yourself overwhelmed. "Try to identify specific situations, people, or actions that trigger your feelings of stress and anxiety, and then try to avoid them when necessary," says Yeager.

Above all, it's important to remember that you're not overreacting and that your feelings and experiences are absolutely valid.

If you or someone you love has experienced sexual violence, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).

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