Children, teens at risk for lasting emotional impact from hurricane sandy

November 7, 2012 by Jerry Carey, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

(Medical Xpress)—After Hurricane Sandy's flood waters have receded and homes demolished by the storm repaired, the unseen aftershocks of the storm may linger for many children who were in the storm's path, particularly those whose families suffered significant losses.

"The lasting emotional impact of a like this can be more devastating than the physical damage the storm caused," says psychologist Esther Deblinger, PhD, the co-director of the Child Abuse Research, Education and Service (CARES) Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "Stress, can affect anyone who experiences a natural disaster that results in the sudden loss of home or relocation to unfamiliar surroundings. The effect can be especially troubling on and adolescents who don't have the same ability as adults to anticipate and cope with trauma."

According to Dr. Deblinger, some children who experienced Hurricane Sandy's destruction will exhibit symptoms – such as withdrawal, depression, sleeplessness and unusually aggressive behavior – that are commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Without help, there is a risk that these symptoms could last a lifetime.

Dr. Deblinger suggests that parents and caregivers help children cope with the stress and anxiety resulting from Hurricane Sandy by:

  • Returning to normal routines, if possible, and engaging in rituals such as bedtime stories and that that are comforting for children.
  • Minimizing the viewing of television coverage about the storm as the news can provoke anxiety in young people.
  • Encouraging optimism about managing the aftermath of the storm and preparing for the future.
  • Remembering that, because they are their children's most important role models, it is important for parents and caregivers to take care of themselves and engage in healthy coping strategies.
  • Reaching out for professional help if the trauma exhibited by their children do not subside over time on their own.
"While most children are resilient and will bounce back from the experience, others are going to need help to recover and feel safe again," Dr. Deblinger says. "In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we saw that the children who were most vulnerable to developing anxiety, and even PTSD or depression, had either experienced other significant trauma or emotional difficulties in their past, or had parents who were having difficulty coping with the effects of the storm."

Dr. Deblinger says her recommendation that parents and guardians seek professional help for children whose symptoms do not subside is especially important. "Decades of research have shown that some children, particularly those who have experienced multiple trauma(s), don't eventually 'get over' or 'outgrow' their experiences," she notes. "Left to recover on their own, some children and adolescents may turn to alcohol, drugs and/or other ineffective ways of coping with the distressing feelings and debilitating symptoms associated with PTSD."

Explore further: For many, 'Superstorm' sandy could take toll on mental health

Related Stories

For many, 'Superstorm' sandy could take toll on mental health

November 1, 2012
(HealthDay)—Some of the numbers are staggering: more than 75 Americans dead, thousands evacuated from their homes, millions left without power for days and billions of dollars in damage from "superstorm" Sandy.

Evaluate children's stress after natural disasters

August 28, 2012
As Hurricane Isaac nears the Gulf Coast, one may wonder what the impact of natural disasters are on children. Who is most at risk for persistent stress reactions? How can such youth be identified and assisted in the aftermath ...

Children's preexisting symptoms influence their reactions to disaster coverage on TV

November 5, 2012
After a natural disaster occurs, we often find ourselves glued to the TV, seeking out details about the extent of the damage and efforts at recovery. While research has shown that exposure to this kind of coverage is associated ...

Storm-related stress? Five self-help tips

August 30, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—With Isaac coming ashore this morning (Aug. 29)—seven years from the date of Hurricane Katrina's landfall—New Orleanians are facing some unique stresses, along with the familiar ones. Jane Parker, Tulane ...

Recommended for you

Levels of gene-expression-regulating enzyme altered in brains of people with schizophrenia

December 14, 2018
A study using a PET scan tracer developed at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has identified, for the first time, epigenetic differences between the brains of individuals ...

Researchers discover abundant source for neuronal cells

December 13, 2018
USC researchers seeking a way to study genetic activity associated with psychiatric disorders have discovered an abundant source of human cells—the nose.

New genetic clues to early-onset form of dementia

December 13, 2018
Unlike the more common Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia tends to afflict young people. It accounts for an estimated 20 percent of all cases of early-onset dementia. Patients with the illness typically begin to ...

How teens deal with stress may affect their blood pressure, immune system

December 13, 2018
Most teens get stressed out by their families from time to time, but whether they bottle those emotions up or put a positive spin on things may affect certain processes in the body, including blood pressure and how immune ...

Increased motor activity linked to improved mood

December 12, 2018
Increasing one's level of physical activity may be an effective way to boost one's mood, according to a new study from a team including scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in collaboration with the ...

Length of eye blinks might act as conversational cue

December 12, 2018
Blinking may feel like an unconscious activity, but new research by Paul Hömke and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, suggests that humans unknowingly perceive eye blinks as nonverbal cues when ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.