Thursday, May 26, 2011

When Natural Disaster Strikes - Surviving Traumatic Stress

Life on Earth is risky. Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, wars, quakes. At any time of any day, disaster can ambush you. But the aftermath can be even worse.

How you cope with its impact can destroy the rest of your life (assuming you survive), or save the rest of your life (by protecting and even enhancing your world view).

Many humans must suffer and witness a panopoly of horrors--- school shootings, combat, rape, torture, natural disasters. Not to mention car wrecks, home or work accidents or so many threats that ignite the brutal reactions of traumatic stress.

Everyone who has experienced such events has undergone a terrific shock.

You may think you are okay, and your own denial is working against you. How do you know your internal pressure is building? Your first symptoms can include--

- Non-physical fatigue
- Being easily startled
- Headaches
- Sweating
- Gastro-intestinal issues
- Insomnia

Emotions play an enormous part in life. Are you especially exposed? Are you repeatedly exposed to life or death situations?

Are you facing life daily as a doctor, nurse, EMT, rescue squad worker, police officer, fire fighter, soldier, medical personnel? Long-term emotional effects can be---

- Deep fear
- Sourceless anger
- Growing guilt
- Increasing anxiety
- Lower and lower awareness
- Feeling numb, detached from normal life
- Desperation, helplessness

We've all heard of PTSD--- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You may suffer, after the event, flashbacks and terror, and nightmares.

Official statistics show a surprisingly large chance that you may be suffering PTSD even now...

About 70 % of U.S. adults have experienced a severe traumatic event at least once in their life and one out of five go on to develop symptoms of PTSD

Approximately 8% of all adults have suffered from PTSD at any one time

If you include children and teens, an estimated 5% of all Americans will develop PTSD during their lifetime or more than 13 million people

About one in 10 women will develop PTSD symptoms during their lifetime or double the rate for men because they are much more likely to be victims of domestic violence, rape or abuse.

Almost 17% of men and 13% of women have experienced more than three traumatic events during their life.

What Can You Do to Help Yourself?

It takes time to heal. Hang on and be patient. Change is natural.

Don't overeat or drink to excess, and make your health even worse.

Don't turn to drugs, which are like throwing gasoline on a bonfire.

Talk about it, and listen. Trust someone close to share some of the load.

Try to help others; you will be surprised how much this can help you in turn.

If necessary, seek professional help.

There are experts in traumatic stress, in the medical field. But do not allow this to turn you to meds as a sole response. A good psychologist trained in stress disorders can help bring you back from the brink.

Remember--- if you find yourself, or someone you love, experiencing continual and aggressive emotional outbursts, serious problems at home or work, and preoccupation with the traumatic event, be on guard!

Look for the danger signs of continued and extreme withdrawal, and other signs of intense anxiety or emotional difficulties.

And if you can't cope, by all means, seek professional assistance.

Be honest, and stay sane! You are not alone! Disasters can impact anyone, at any time!

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