Disasters & Trauma & Your Mental Health

 

Disasters & Trauma & Your Mental Health



Disasters and trauma are an unfortunate part of life. Every person is affected differently by trauma, but none the less, disasters ultimately will have some sort of impact on just about everyone. Different factors determine how a disaster or trauma will affect one's mental health. Broaching the subject of "mental health" still carries a stigma for some, but there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Realizing what normal feelings and reactions may result from trauma is the first step in determining if one needs professional help.

What exactly constitutes a "disaster" or a "trauma"? That truly depends on the person. However, the following is a list of such known occurrences:

–Various accidents
–Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
–Neglect
–War experience
–Alcoholism
–Illness, surgery, or disability
–The death of a family member or friend
–A natural disaster

Obviously, this list is in no way conclusive but meant as a help for someone experiencing intense emotions due to a traumatic experience.

After someone experiences a traumatic event or disaster, they may feel a whole host of emotions. Most will feel some level of anxiety, grief, and/or anger. Other normal experiences after such events include shock, inability to focus, difficulty making decisions, loss of appetite or overeating, crying, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. These responses are normal and some are to be expected. Over time, these negative emotions should lessen.

But for some, these emotions and disturbances don't lessen over time. The following list is a brief example of warning signs that you may need to contact your health provider and seek professional medical help to alleviate your distress.

These signs include:
–Continued nightmares and thoughts about the event
–Inability to stop thinking and ruminating about what happened
–Continual avoidance of thoughts, feelings, or conversations that remind you of the event
–Inappropriate avoidance of places or people that remind you of the event
–Fearful of the future
–Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
–Easily startled or "jumpy"
–Overly concerned about the safety
–Having intense feelings of guilt, worthless or hopeless
–Not enjoying activities you once enjoyed
–Any thoughts of death or suicide

When these feelings are so intense that they affect your daily ability to function, that also is a strong indicator that professional help is in order. Even if the trauma occurred years ago, you may have never fully overcome it. Professional health providers can help diagnose potential underlying problems or prescribe medication that can significantly improve your daily life.


It may even be the case that you have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or even phobias without realizing that trauma is the cause. It has recently become accepted to look at traumas and disasters as serious causes of mental illness. If your current diagnosis and treatment are not delivering the results that you want, make an appointment with your health provider. Don't give up on your treatment. Life events occur and can cause great pain and significant emotional disturbances, but these events need not dictate your life. Give yourself time to heal, but do seek professional treatment if your symptoms are significantly disturbing your daily life.

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