So you survived the hurricane but now what? ...let's talk Post Hurricane PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for a moment!
A hurricane is a natural disaster and any one who has been through one knows that the run up to preparing for a hurricane is mentally draining in itself. The natural disaster brings threats of devastion and destruction to those within it's path. Many often feel overwhelming fear during the storm and feel pain, panic and stress when the storm subsides.
Often many are faced with loss of power for weeks, no shelter, no gas, no generators, no money and no hope! People often feel lonely, rejected and neglected by those they relied on the most. Even for those who do not suffer a loss, the stress in itself can be enough for a person to plunge into depression and makes the situation ripe for PTSD.
As a result, it is not uncommon for the trauma to cause high levels of stress, anxiety and other negative psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. PTSD is a serious mental health condition that severely affects how an individual is able to go about his daily life. While a hurricane can have a negative effect on all its survivors and witnesses, many individuals will eventually be able to move on and recover after a few months. Individuals who develop PTSD, however, will be unable to recover from the traumatic experience on their own due to a number of lingering symptoms, including the following:
•Re-living the trauma – This can cause the individual to frequently re-experience the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks. Reminders of the event can cause strong feelings of distress as well as an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.
•Avoidance symptoms – An individual may subconsciously avoid everything that reminds him of the traumatic event such as thoughts, feelings, places, people and conversations. This can cause self-isolation, trust issues and a loss of interest in old activities and hobbies.
•Hyperarousal symptoms – In response to PTSD, the high levels of stress may cause the body to respond with hyperarousal symptoms, including difficulty falling asleep, irritability, feeling threatened, having difficulty concentrating, being easily startled and having angry outbursts.
PTSD doesn't develop immediately, it develops after about a month," Asim Shah, M.D., chief of the division of community psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, told CBS News. "So we haven't seen this group of people yet, but we expect to after 30 days or so." Shah led the effort to provide mental health services for evacuees at the Houston Convention Center and NGR Stadium shelters immediately following Hurrican Harvey.
How to Cope with the Trauma of Surviving a Hurricane
Those who have been affected by a hurricane can take advantage of several resources that may help them cope and reduce the damage caused by the disaster. An individual can reduce the chances of developing PTSD by taking certain precautionary efforts, including the following:
•Limit your exposure to repeated news stories, which usually increases stress.
•Rest, get exercise, and eat properly. Seek out leisure and recreational activities that involve both mind and body.
•Spend time with trusted loved ones for support.
•Talk with others and seek support from those who have been exposed to the same or similar trauma.
•Recognize that you cannot control everything.
•Talk with a relative, friend, doctor, or spiritual advisor about getting help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness.
•Try to set a regular schedule to follow which can help you return to normal life
•Learn to recognize and manage stress or other negative emotions
•Contact a mental health professional if symptoms persist for more than a few weeks and interfere in your carrying out your daily activities.
If you notice PTSD symptoms in yourself or in a loved one, experts encourage you to speak to a health care professional. Treatment is available — typically cognitive behavioral therapy involving talk therapy and exercises to learn how to control overwhelming emotion associated with flashbacks. Medication can also be prescribed if necessary.