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People Who Survive Natural Disasters Can Develop Post-traumatic Stress | The USA Print – THE USA PRINT

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Soldiers fighting in wars, people suffering violence, fleeing and displaced, emergency services rescuing seriously injured and dead during catastrophes. They all can suffer the so-called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And extreme weather events are considered disasters of this type.

“Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have been very well studied,” says Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, a psychiatrist and president of the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN). In 2005, Meyer-Lindenberg was one of the first psychiatrists to intervene in the United States. after the passage of hurricane Katrina, which wreaked havoc and claimed more than 1,800 lives. “Basically, not everyone exposed to extreme weather events has mental health problems as a result. But these disorders and diseases increase significantly after such phenomena ”, he explains.

According to the specialist, almost half of the people affected by the devastation of Katrina developed PTSD.

PTSD as a direct consequence of inclement weather

“PTSD is defined by the fact that an extremely threatening event has occurred that you yourself or someone close to you has witnessed, and it becomes the center of your ailments,” he explains. Through the calls flashbacks, the catastrophe is relived over and over again. As a consequence, those affected try to avoid anything that could trigger these memories, such as rain in the case of flood victims.

Due to the impossibility of coping with the experiencepost-traumatic stress disorder does not usually go away without therapeutic help, says the psychiatrist.

There is little data on extreme weather events and their consequences for the psyche of those affected from developing countries, since most studies come from Europe, North America and Australia, says Meyer-Lindenberg. Instead, it is the countries of the southern hemisphere that have had to deal with these phenomena for longer and more frequently.

According to the expert, stable levees can not only protect against flooding, but also one’s own mental health, because they convey a sense of security.

How does psychological first aid work?

First of all, there must be a place to sleep, something to eat and clean drinking water, Meyer-Lindenberg argues. In second place, It is important to reassure that is, listening when someone wants to talk, without forcing a conversation about what they have experienced. In third place, Those affected must be able to contact their families as soon as possible, especially children. It’s also important to experience self-sufficiency, says Meyer-Lindenberg, the feeling of actively participating in shaping a situation rather than feeling solely at its mercy. And finally, it is essential to maintain hope with the feeling that this situation will be overcome.

The more storms, the more PTSD

If the PTSD symptoms appear later, so-called exposure therapy can help those affected to face the trauma again and overcome it. “PTSD can go away completely again,” says Meyer-Lindenberg.

However, people with pre-existing PTSD experience re-traumatization when repeatedly exposed to extreme weather events: PTSD doesn’t get better the more times you go through extreme events, quite the opposite.

Keep reading:

* More than 103 million people in the US live under alerts for extreme weather conditions, according to reports
* How America’s “Tornado Corridor” Is Widening
* Most Americans Wouldn’t Leave Their Homes To Escape A Disaster If They Couldn’t Bring Their Pets: Survey

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