Here’s my two scents’ worth.
The human endocrine system has two main modes, sympathetic and parasympathetic.
The sympathetic is the one we’re all familiar with, the one that creates that “adrenaline rush” reaction. Bam, and you’re ready for fight or flight.
The parasympathetic is the opposite. Its job is to calm you down. It’s both what brings you back down after an adrenaline rush, and what causes the third stress response, “hide”.
Stress, as we know it, is often caused by a conflict between these two systems. Fear especially can cause a massive biochemical fight between the “flight” and “hide” responses. Do I run from the danger? or hide from it?
Bear with me, I’ll be coming around to “shock” in a paragraph or so.
As modern urban people, we’re used to a certain background level of stress. Just walking down the street, we gain stress points from all the strangers we pass, the navigation we’re doing, and so forth. So most of us living in modern society are under a certain amount of biological stress all the time. And different people cope different ways. We are all, to some extent, a house of cards, and the level of stress on the system is the level of weight being supported by those cards.
In regular life, our stress levels do not change so rapidly that we cannot adjust the cards to compensate. But take a major stressor, like seeing someone get et by a dragon, and the whole structure flies apart. Long-suppressed stressors are suddenly unbalanced, and suddenly the endrocrine and nervous systems have way more than they are even meant to handle. Bad mojo, folks.
So “shock”, as you’re describing it **Eats_Crayons, **, is the colloquial term for when this happens. It’s just like someone giving you a massive dose of a cocktail of both stimulants and depressives, and as such, can actually be quite dangerous to your health. The fact that the cause is mental, or “psychogenic”, doesn’t make a difference.
Now, how to treat it : basically, you want to return the patient to baseline as smoothly and quickly as possible. You need to put them in a neutral environment, someplace quiet and dark, very low stimulus. You want to montor their vital signs and carefully counter any extreme reactions. I say carefully, because people in shock often swing wildly from sympathetic to parasymapthetic reactions, and the idea is to remove the energy from the system, slow down the pendulum, not add more energy to the system by trying to counter ione pendulum swing and end up just swining it all the harder in the opposite direction.
So, to sum up (ha), yes, the ‘shock’ they are talking about is real. It’s an extreme stress reaction caused by extremely stressful events, and that includes just seeing something really horrible, like a dragon munching your postman. It’s not just journalistic hyperbole, it’s quite real, and in some cases, could quite literally kill you if untreated.
I hope that clears things up for… somebody.