What are Common Personal Reactions to a Disaster?
Sharon M. Danes, Extension Specialist and Professor — Family Social Science
Revised March 2010 by the author.
Personal reactions to disasters, like floods, can vary person to person.
After a disaster you may find that you are experiencing one or more strong physical reactions like:
- Having trouble sleeping or feeling exhausted.
- Having disturbing dreams/memories.
- Having trouble concentrating.
- Startling easily (feeling jumpy) at sudden noise.
- Pounding heart and rapid breathing.
- Stomach upset and/or trouble eating.
- Severe headache and/or sweating.
- Failure to engage in regular habits related to exercise, diet, safe sex, and health care.
- Excess consumptions of smoking, alcohol, drugs, and/or food.
- Worsening of chronic medical problems.
You may also find that you are experiencing strong emotional reactions such as:
- Feeling nervous, helpless, fearful, or sad.
- Feeling numb, unable to experience love or joy.
- Feeling hopeless about the future.
- Avoiding people, places, and things related to the event.
- Feeling detached or unconcerned about others.
- Feeling on guard and constantly alert.
- Being irritable or having outbursts of anger.
- Becoming easily upset or agitated.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop after someone has experienced a life-threatening situation. It may also surface after people have watched someone they love get hurt badly or they have watched their house or something major be destroyed. People with PTSD often can’t stop thinking about what happened to them. They may try to avoid people and places that remind them of the disaster and may work hard to push thoughts of the even out of their head. Feeling numb is another common reactions. Finally, people find that they have trouble relaxing. They startle easily and are often on guard.
If you want to learn more about PTSD visit the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) page at the National Institute of Mental Health website. This site has information about signs and symptoms of PTSD, treatment for PTSD, information about getting help if you think that you may be experiencing PTSD, and a number of other sites to visit that provide information about helping children and adolescents.
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Controlling Stress —Get tips for taking care of yourself and knowing when to seek help. Part of the Getting through tough times series.
Dealing with stress — Online courses and resources for understanding and coping with stress.
Extreme Weather — Extension resources for floods, wind damage, winter impacts, and more.
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