Three experiences from disasters

Mental health professionals

Many of people’s psychological reactions to disasters can be viewed as “normal reactions under unusual circumstances.” Therefore, rather than treating or correcting psychological problems, such situations are more about conveying accurate information and adapting to the event. It is important to help people build strength and resilience, and to support them so they can cope with their situation. However, some mental health conditions may be more serious and require professional involvement and treatment.


Psychological reactions to disasters are caused by three experiences.

1.The experience of loss

It is caused by the “loss” experienced by the losing of a loved one or thing. Grief reactions to a disaster carry the risk of being prolonged or complicated (i.e., complicated grief). Grief is also known to result in depression, anxiety disorders, psychosomatic disorders, and actual physical illnesses.


2.Traumatic experiences

Stemming from a “traumatic experience.” This type of experience is one in which you or someone close to you is exposed to a threat on their life.  Traumatic experiences involve intense fear, helplessness, and a shivering sensation. Prolonged trauma reaction can lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, and alcohol dependence, and treatment can become necessary.


3.Secondary stress

This is due to the stress that occurs secondarily after a disaster. Victims may be forced to live in shelters or change their environment due to the loss of their homes and/or household goods, losing their jobs, etc., as a result of a disaster, which creates a lot of secondary stress. These life stresses can be factors in mental strain, and in some cases, depression, psychosomatic disorders, and anxiety.


Therefore, when dealing with post-disaster mental health issues, it is important to not focus solely on PTSD, but to also focus on risk factors leading to complicated grief, depression, psychosomatic illness, and alcoholic dependence.