How to Cope With Natural Disaster Trauma

natural disaster trauma
What is natural disaster trauma

It is distress caused by a weather event like a drought, landslides, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tropical storms, and tornadoes. 

Trauma not only impacts one psychologically but physically as well. Natural disasters may impact many people in their paths; if you feel you have trauma from a natural disaster, then you are certainly not alone! 

There is a lot more to learn about how natural disaster trauma affects people, and how people with this type of trauma can be helped. 

Here we will discuss common trauma symptoms, coping, grief, helping others with natural disaster trauma experience, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Keep reading for more information!

Trauma Counselors in Colorado Springs

Barbra Styles, LPC, LAC

Barbra Styles, LPC, LAC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Kevin Kessell, SWC

Kevin Kessell, SWC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Joseph Anders, LPCC

Joseph Anders, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518

Common Trauma Symptoms

It's tough to predict if or when deep issues will settle into a natural disaster trauma survivor. 

It could happen right away, or even weeks or months down the road. 

Common psychological and behavioral symptoms to look out for are difficulty making decisions, confusion, sleep, eating issues, intense and unpredictable flashbacks, depression, anxiety, fear of the traumatic event occurring again, mood swings, increase in conflict with other people, avoidance, and irritability. 

You may also have hyperarousal, or feeling like you are constantly alert. 

Physically, someone may have chest pain, nausea, digestive symptoms, a racing heart, fatigue, sweating a lot, feeling jumpy, and headaches. 

If you have experienced symptoms for one month or longer, and/or feel the loss of control of your life, then it is time to seek professional assistance to process the experience. 

It is important to note that a person need not have first-hand experience with the disaster to be affected. 

Someone in Colorado may have seen news coverage of an area in Florida where their best friend lives who dealt with an extremely damaging hurricane. 

Furthermore, they may have not heard from their best friend in days and could be worried about their safety.


Coping With the Trauma

When recovering from a natural disaster, it can be stressful to switch jobs or careers. 

Doing these things without the weight of a natural disaster is stressful, and with the disaster, it would be even more so. 

You will want to ensure you get enough sleep and avoid drugs and alcohol. 

The reason to avoid drugs and alcohol is that they can numb you and steer you away from actively coping with the natural disaster trauma. 

Coping is essential to move on. You might want to find a support group locally or online to connect with others who have dealt with similar natural disasters. 

A support group can be really useful particularly if you have a limited personal support system.


Grief

A natural disaster is unfortunately an example of an event where multiple losses may be experienced. 

As a result of a natural disaster, you may have lost someone important to you, such as a family member or close friend. 

It is possible to have even lost the home that you worked many years to buy and maintain. 

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

Acceptance is where many people would like to end up. In fact, it is unlikely to get to acceptance without experiencing the depression stage. 

A person may skip or repeat any stage, and may not move from one stage to another in order. 

Reading up on these stages may give you further guidance on your natural disaster trauma.


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How to Help Others with Natural Disaster Trauma

If you are a friend, caregiver, or family member of someone who has experienced a natural disaster trauma, then you may want to know how you can help. 

The first step is to validate the person's feelings. Let them know that feeling angry, sad, or scared is normal. 

Then, tell the person that you would like to have open communication, and let them know you are there to listen if they would like to discuss their feelings or experiences. 

It would also be helpful to encourage the person to have a routine for normalcy and stability. 

They need to keep up with their school, work, sleeping, and eating schedules to help themselves feel better. 

Within this routine, ensure they have fun. 

Play games or sports with them.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

As a result of a natural disaster, you or a loved one may be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. 

If one has memory problems, substance abuse issues, depression, or other mental health issues, then this is more likely to occur. 

People with PTSD may have intrusive thoughts that include involuntary and repeated memories. 

Dreams may be distressing, and flashbacks are inevitable. 

It is common to have distorted beliefs about themselves or others, leading to wrongful blame. 

The inability to experience satisfaction or happiness is common. 

A person diagnosed with PTSD may exhibit self-destructive or reckless behavior, have sleeping problems, or be startled easily. 

Some people find that PTSD symptoms disappear over time, while others need professional help to work through them. 

People can get professional help through research-proven methods mental health professionals use. 

Medication and psychotherapy have been proven to be useful. 

One may find themselves receiving trauma-sensitive interventions in their therapy. 

There is also Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to get a person's traumatic memory to change and be experienced less negatively.


Conclusion

As we are reaching the end of this article, we hope that you have learned more information about natural disaster trauma than you began reading with. 

Potential PTSD and other mental health concerns are to be dealt with, and the sooner the better. 

You can help others who have experienced natural disasters. 

If you have gone through one, then you also need to ensure you help yourself and recognize any natural disaster trauma symptoms, including those related to grief, that needs to be addressed. 

There are many types of natural disasters one can experience. 

People can come away from natural disasters with not only psychological but physical symptoms.

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June 17th, 2024

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