Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: How to Cope with Disaster

In light of the devastation and suffering from the aftermath Hurricane Sandy, this list is offered to help individuals understand Disaster Reactions.

Having a direct or indirect traumatic experience sets into motion a variety of psychological reactions. These psychological reactions have physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral presentations. This list is not exhaustive but will help show some of the reactions you might experience.

Psychological Reactions

•Appetite change
•Difficulty concentrating
•Difficulty making decisions
•Difficulty using logic
•Difficulty naming objects
•Difficulty focusing
•Distortions in time perspective
•Exaggerated startle reaction
•Excessive worry about safety of others
•Emotional numbing
•Faintness or dizziness
•Feelings of being unappreciated
•Feelings of inadequacy
•Feelings of loss
•Feelings of gratefulness for being alive
•Feelings of isolation or abandonment
•Feeling high, heroic, invulnerable
•Feeling a “lump in the throat”
•Feeling uncoordinated
•Hyperactivity or an inability to rest
•Increased heartbeat, respiration, blood pressure
•Increased alcohol use or substance abuse
•Intense concern for family members
•Inability to express self verbally or in writing
•Loss of appetite
•Loss of objectivity
•Lower back pain
•Memory problems
•Muffled hearing
•Pains in chest
•Periods of crying
•Persistent interest in the event
•Persistent or obsessive thoughts
•Sense of unreality 
•Sleep disturbance
•Slowness of thinking
•Social withdrawal
•Soreness in muscles
•Stomach and muscle cramps
•Strong identification with victims
•Strong identification with survivors
•Sweating or chills
•Tremors, especially of hand, lips, eyes
•Trouble catching breath
•Visual flashbacks

Coping with Disaster Stress

1. Stay active. Falling into passivity can worsen psychological and physical disaster reactions.

2. Resume a normal routine as soon as possible.

3. Remind yourself that reactions you're having are considered part of the trauma cycle. It's especially important to teach children that these reactions are "normal".

4. Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol. And avoid caffeine as its effects can amplify anxiety and stress response.

5. Talk about your experience.

6.  It's okay to spend some time by yourself, or on the other hand, feel the need to be with others. 

7. Avoid over-exposure to media images and newscasts.

8. Realize those around you are also under stress and may not react in a manner you'd normally expect.

9. Understand that chaos may be the "new normal" and that a return to stability may be days, week or months away. 

10. Make decisions that will give you the control over your life.

If you find that post-trauma stress, depression or anxiety is too much for you to handle on your own, reach out for help. If you live in the ground zero or hard hit areas of Super Storm Sandy, there will be mental health support service personnel on stand-by, and there is always help found at The American Red Cross.