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How People Think and React After a Natural Disaster

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

The natural disasters in Japan have given people a lot to think about recently. Although the earthquake and tsunami are over with, there is the destruction left over and the ongoing nuclear power plant radiation concerns.

Some mental health experts gave their viewpoints on how and why people think in a certain way after natural disasters and have certain reactions.

Trauma and PTSD

Anthony Ng, a medical director at Acadia Hospital in Maine and a psychiatrist who specializes in natural disasters, said that there have been so many videos about these natural disasters, and people are generally sad about this tragedy, so this can drag on some emotional reactions.

“This may be tough for people who have gone through similar disasters,” Ng said. “This could reawaken a lot of reactions.”

They might be thinking of a possibility of a natural disaster closer to home, and could be experiencing more anxiety.

People who are indirectly or directly affected by the natural disaster can suffer from trauma, according to an older Psychology Today blog.

“Victims do not need to have experienced the disaster firsthand in order to be psychologically affected,” the article stated. “For example, someone living in San Francisco with relatives in Haiti at the time of the recent earthquake could have been subjected to countless hours of television coverage, coupled with an inability to get information about their own family. This type of situation can take an emotional impact on someone even from afar.”

The American Psychological Association’s website said natural disasters can cause traumatic stress for those involved (or for people who have family and friends who are killed). This experience can sometimes lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, which includes feeling fearful, helpless and sometimes having flashbacks and nightmares.

Many people are resilient enough and bounce back after traumatic experiences and don’t develop PTSD, but others who have risk factors, like experiencing multiple traumatic events, having a mental illness and little support, can suffer for long periods of time, according to the website.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.