Potential causes of developing PTSD – 3: Natural calamities

Potential causes of developing PTSD – 3: Natural calamities

Disasters can be natural or man-made, but in either case, the destruction that befalls is so severe that it can take a heavy toll on the sufferer imposing substantial health and financial burden. Natural disasters usually come without a warning, and therefore, cause immense damage to life and property.

Some of the common forms of natural disasters include floods, tidal wave affecting people living in coastal areas, storms, cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, avalanches, droughts, and forest and bush fires. Though the recent advancements in science and technology have made it possible to identify the early warning signs of drought or floods, most natural calamities are still incomprehensible.

Although the human and material loss associated with a natural calamity is often measurable, its impact on the mental health of a person is often left unnoticed. Millions of people are affected by the calamitous impact of natural tragedies and suffer from severe emotional aftershocks, which require humanitarian aid in the form of psychosocial care.

Confronted with deaths of loved ones and scenes of destruction, the victim goes through a phase of denial and disbelief, which culminates to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious mental health condition caused due to an extreme trauma. When left untreated, PTSD can give rise to lasting emotional distress and psychological damage.

How does a natural disaster affect the victim?

Natural disasters affect the victim’s emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal well-being apart from causing a significant physical damage. Fatigue, increased heartbeat, sleeplessness and changes in appetite are some of the common symptoms found in the survivors.

According to the Disaster Mental Response Handbook, the cognitive and the emotional effects on the victim are manifested as:

  • Impaired concentration
  • Disbelief
  • Nightmares
  • Lowered self esteem
  • Self-blame or guilt
  • Confusion
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Poor performance in school and at work
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Increased irritability and anger
  • Emotional numbing
  • Feeling of helplessness

However, in a majority of cases, the signs of shock are transient with most people recovering without any medical intervention. For an individual to be diagnosed with PTSD, it is essential that the symptoms of the disorder persist for at least a month post trauma.

It is also likely that the individuals with PTSD may suffer from the following comorbidities:

  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Scapegoating tendency, that is, blaming someone else for one’s own problems
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Lack of self esteem

Although it is impossible to prevent natural calamities, it is important to help people displaced by such catastrophes by providing them with food, clean water, health care and emotional support, especially for the children who have lost their loved ones to disasters like earthquake, typhoon or hurricane.

Leading a stress-free life is possible

Counseling provides a great relief to a person affected by the trauma of the loss of a loved one. As the experience could precipitate pain, it is essential to take small steps at a time. Depending on the severity and the duration of the disorder, a physician assesses the impact of the trauma and then, recommends the necessary treatment.

If you or your loved one is showing signs of anxiety, you can contact the Anxiety Treatment Centers of California experts who can guide you to the best anxiety disorders treatment centers in California that offer a combination of medication, therapy and emotional support from professional practitioners. If you are looking for state-of-the-art treatment centers equipped with evidence-based treatment plans, call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-972-9459 or chat online with our representatives who can share information about the best anxiety treatment centers in near you.

Read the other articles of the series “Potential causes of developing PTSD:”

  1. War
  2. Sexual assault


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