Mental issues emerging after a disaster

For the bereaved

Disasters cause two problems in people’s minds at the same time: “trauma” and “loss”. The issue of “trauma” comes from the impact of unacceptable events, such as the fear of earthquakes and anxiety over their reoccurrence. On the other hand, the issue of “loss” comes from the grief of losing loved ones and things that are irreplaceable, such as families, homes, jobs, household goods as well as familiar streets and neighbors.


The following summarizes the mental problems that occur when someone loses a loved one in a disaster.


【Emotions after disasters】

  •  The emotions may seem overwhelmingly threatening. You may have a strong feeling of guilt over what is happening to you. You may not even be able to control yourself, feeling you might have become insane.
  •  The scene of disaster may stay in your mind, repeatedly coming back to you (flashbacks), and causing nightmares. Every time that happens, you may feel fear and sadness.
  •  Sometimes you feel numb, with no feeling, no reality, and no tears. At other times, you may not be able to think straight and get confused. These happen unconsciously in order to protect yourself from bitterness and fear.
  •  On the other hand, you may excessively cry or vent uncontrollable frustration and anger. Anger is a very natural reaction to an unreasonable event.


【Other matters】

  •  Traumatic experience may cause severe fatigue, insomnia, a loss of appetite, headaches and abdominal pain, and increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  •  It can affect relationships with family members and friends. Sometimes, disasters become an opportunity to unite , but other times it becomes difficult to support each other because of tension. Sometimes you want someone to be with you, and sometimes you want to be alone.



Disasters threaten people’s lives. There is no rhyme or reason for which state you fall into. It is not because you’re too weak to control the condition or you are responsible to the condition.


Whether the issue is about “trauma” or “loss”, each person is impacted in different ways and has different methods of responding to it. There is no such thing as the “right” way of reacting and coping “to do”. For everyone, grief is unique. Also, the grief process takes time. Some people may get better in a few months, others may take years to cope. It’s important to get better at your own pace, little by little.  Do not compare your progress to others’.


However, if you are overwhelmed and feel hindered in your daily life for many months, or if you continue to have any strong concerns, you might want to consult a mental health specialist (psychiatrist, psychosomatic physician, psychotherapist, counselor, etc.) or a support group.