Regardless of which kind of disaster victim you may fall into (see Who will be affected), it is normal to experience different psychological reactions. In some cases, warning signals (i.e. more severe symptoms) may surface and warrant immediate attention:

  • Physical

    Heart palpitation, dizziness, headache, muscle pain and tension, sweating or chills, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, thirst, blurred vision, sleep disturbance

    Warning Signals – Difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, severe chest pain, symptoms of shock

  • Cognitive

    Slowed thinking, poor concentration, absent-mindedness, forgetfulness, distortion in time perception, decreased judgment and problem solving ability, loss of objectivity, frustration, nightmares, repeated flashbacks

    Warning Signals –Serious disruption in thinking, disorganized thinking, inability to express oneself, decreased alertness, excessive worry, inability to make decisions

  • Emotional

    Anxiety, anger, irritability, guilt, shock, sadness, self-blame or blaming others, denial, fear, being easily startled, inability to control emotions, depression, feeling of failure, numbness

    Warning Signals –Panic reactions, extreme fear or shock, loss of self-control, inappropriate emotions

  • Behavioral

    Hyperactivity, difficulty in verbal or written expression, decreased efficiency, emotional labile, increased use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs, social withdrawal, avoidance of people, things or places related to the disaster, change in appetite, agitation

    Warning Signals –Extreme hyperactivity, obvious changes in speech pattern, frequent anger outbursts, antisocial acts (e.g. violence), crying spells, unnecessary risk-taking behavior

  • Spiritual

    Experiencing multiple existential losses such as sense of meaning, sense of internal peace, sense of hope, sense of trust in religious beliefs and sense of connection with the world, others, self and even faith

    Warning Signals –extreme despair, filled with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, uneasiness and disconnection, doubting one's personal beliefs, evolving thoughts of harmful acts to others and oneself

Many of the above reactions tend to subside over time. But if you wish to speed up the process of impact alleviation, check out some self-care skills that suit you:

If the impacts persist or warning signals emerge, don't hesitate to seek professional support listed at Resources: Professional Services to prevent the condition from deteriorating.

Reference:

  • [1] Beyond Helping Others – Stress Reactions and Management in Emergencies.
  • [2] Deloso, L. (2018). Spirituality in survivors of natural disasters: Understanding the needs and improving the care.
  • [3] Harris, J. I., Thornton, S., & Engdahl, B. (2010). The Psychospiritual Impact of Disaster An Overview. In Creating spiritual and psychological resilience (pp. 108-118). Routledge.
  • [4] Haynes, W. C., Van Tongeren, D. R., Aten, J., Davis, E. B., Davis, D. E., Hook, J. N., ... & Johnson, T. (2017). The meaning as a buffer hypothesis: Spiritual meaning attenuates the effect of disaster-related resource loss on posttraumatic stress. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9(4), 446.
  • [5] Jang, L. J., & LaMendola, W. F. (2007). Social work in natural disasters: The case of spirituality and post-traumatic growth. Advances in Social Work, 8(2), 305-316.
  • [6] Schreiber, J. A., & Brockopp, D. Y. (2012). Twenty-five years later—what do we know about religion/spirituality and psychological well-being among breast cancer survivors? A systematic review. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 6(1), 82-94.
  • [7] When the Unexpected Comes.
  • [8] Wortmann, J. H., Park, C. L., & Edmondson, D. (2011). Trauma and PTSD symptoms: Does spiritual struggle mediate the link?. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 3(4), 442.