Hurricanes' toll on mental health will linger

September 14, 2017
Damage from Hurricane Irma in Marco Island, Fla. Photo: Florida National Guard

(HealthDay)—Even after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma disappears, survivors could still suffer from mental stress caused by the massive storms, experts say.

"Everybody who has been in a disaster is changed permanently in some way. You never forget it," said Dr. Carol North, a crisis psychiatrist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

North has studied thousands of survivors of major disasters, such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Oklahoma City bombings.

"Even though people are permanently changed by going through a disaster, they need not be damaged by their experience," she said in a medical center news release.

Many people experience anxiety, lack of sleep, nightmares or irritability after a traumatic event, but most recover within weeks to months. However, some people may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and take years, or even decades, to recover.

PTSD occurs in about 4 percent of Americans who go through a natural disaster, according to North, but that rate can be as high as one-third among those most affected by the worst .

North outlined some coping techniques for people with short-term symptoms of after a disaster. These techniques include:

  • Distraction through activities, such as games, music, movies or social events;
  • Deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises;
  • Seeking comfort from family, friends and others; and
  • Temporary use of medications to ease anxiety and improve sleep.

Dr. James Norcross, a psychiatrist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said that parents can help children recover after a natural disaster by remaining calm and reassuring. He also suggested that parents limit children's exposure to news reports on television or social media.

"This can be overwhelming and scary for kids," Norcross said in the news release. "But the good news is that kids are remarkably resilient."

Explore further: The mental health impact of major disasters like Harvey and Irma

More information: Mental Health America has more on coping with disaster.

Related Stories

The mental health impact of major disasters like Harvey and Irma

September 12, 2017
When major disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit, the first priority is to keep people safe. This process can involve dramatic evacuations, rescues and searches.

Hurricanes may have longer-lasting impact on kids

September 12, 2017
(HealthDay)—Children may have a more difficult time coping with the devastating hurricanes that have recently hit the United States, an expert says.

Dealing with the psychological aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

September 1, 2017
Flood water eventually will recede from Houston and its surrounding areas, but the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey will remain fresh for those impacted by the storm. While moving forward after a disaster like Harvey is difficult, ...

Addressing domestic violence should be part of recovery plan during natural disasters

August 31, 2017
Hurricane Harvey is the most recent natural disaster that has caused damage and destruction across many communities. When disasters strike an entire community, they do not affect all community members equally, and victims ...

Disaster aftereffects may linger for children

September 14, 2015
(HealthDay)—Natural and man-made disasters can put children's health and development at risk for years to come, a new report from a leading group of pediatricians suggests.

Disasters and kids – how to help them recover

August 17, 2016
Louisiana's historic floods have killed at least eight people. As many as 20,000 others have been rescued and thousands have been forced into shelters.

Recommended for you

A walk at the mall or the park? New study shows, for moms and daughters, a walk in the park is best

November 17, 2017
Spending time together with family may help strengthen the family bond, but new research from the University of Illinois shows that specifically spending time outside in nature—even just a 20-minute walk—together can ...

Risk of distracted driving predicted by age, gender, personality and driving frequency

November 17, 2017
New research identifies age, gender, personality and how often people drive as potential risk factors for becoming distracted while driving. Young men, extroverted or neurotic people, and people who drive more often were ...

When male voles drink alcohol, but their partner doesn't, their relationship suffers

November 17, 2017
A study of the effect of alcohol on long-term relationships finds that when a male prairie vole has access to alcohol, but his female partner doesn't, the relationship suffers - similar to what has been observed in human ...

Spanking linked to increase in children's behavior problems

November 16, 2017
Children who have been spanked by their parents by age 5 show an increase in behavior problems at age 6 and age 8 relative to children who have never been spanked, according to new findings in Psychological Science, a journal ...

Multiplayer video games: Researchers discover link between skill and intelligence

November 15, 2017
Researchers at the University of York have discovered a link between young people's ability to perform well at two popular video games and high levels of intelligence.

Generous people give in a heartbeat—new study

November 15, 2017
Altruistic people are said to be "kind hearted" - and new research published in the journal Scientific Reports shows that generous people really are more in touch with their own hearts.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BubbaNicholson
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2017
They could also just treat the PTSD: 250mg of healthy adult male facial skin surface lipid pheromone taken by mouth one time. Avoid the fumes (fume hoods, fans, respirators, patient isolation for 40 days).

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.