Stress Warning Signs & Stress Management After Disaster Strikes (Part 1)
Stress Warning Signs & Stress Management After Disaster Strikes (Part 1) avatar

Stress Warning Signs

Many people who are involved in traumatic events have a brief period of difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time, a survival mentality and healthy coping methods, such traumatic reactions usually get better.

Emotional reactions after a trauma can vary greatly, ranging from very little distress to extreme stress reactions. Although a person’s reaction to post-disaster stress may be troubling, remember that these are normal reac­tions.

Common Symptoms Of Extreme Stress:

  • Erratic behavior: Risky behaviors or even criminal activity to try to solve financial problems or deal with other matters. Anger is common.
  • Changes in mood: Victims may feel nervous, anxious and depressed as well as display irritabil­ity and rapid mood swings. Also, outbursts toward family, friends and co-workers are common. Guilt feelings also are possible, especially if a person lost a loved one in the disaster and some may wish they had taken the place of their loved one or been there with that person during the crisis.
  • Substance abuse: In stressful situations, some adults abuse al­cohol or other substances in an attempt to self medicate.
  • Physical symptoms: Headaches, fatigue and pain may be related to increased anxiety. High levels of stress can weaken the immune system, leading to increases in illness.
  • Recurrent thoughts: Difficulty thinking about anything other than the disaster. Some may have flashbacks of the event or feel that they are reliving it. Recurrent thoughts or flashbacks can interfere with concentration and overall performance.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding places or things that remind them of the event. Such remind­ers bring back the strong emotions they experienced during the disaster. Some victims avoid leaving home for fear that something terrible will happen again.
  • Shaken belief systems: Questioning ones religious or spiritual beliefs is natural in a traumatic situation. Other questions regarding the safety of their community, country, and government officials are common after a disaster as people search for mean­ing and resolution.
  • Withdrawl: Withdrawing from family, friends, and self-isolation are a product of feeling helpless. Some may believe they are avoiding trou­bling others with their burdens, or they may feel shame over their emotional reactions.
  • Cognitive problems: Concentration, attention span and remembering things are likely to be impaired by fatigue, recurrent thoughts of the disaster and worry about the future.
  • Changes in sleeping, eating, and daily routines: Restless sleep, nightmares and troubling daydreams will derail normal routines.  A dramatic changes in appetite is especially common, although dramatic weight gain is also a stress symptom.

When to see a doctor:
It’s normal to have a wide range of emotions after a traumatic event, but if you have these disturbing feelings for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, consider talking to your health care professional.

Excerpts taken from publications provided by the Texas A&M University and The Mayo Clinic

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