OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Dealing with a Natural Disaster

Disasters can make us all feel vulnerable, whether we are impacted directly or indirectly. Events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis can seem to have no rhyme or reason as to how they start and the damage they can inflict upon people's property and their lives.

Why is this event so stressful?

Loss.  We may experience the loss directly or indirectly. Sometimes one loss can remind us of other losses that we have had.

Lack of control.  Part of what makes all disasters so unnerving is they reveal our limitations as human beings. Despite our best human efforts, natural disasters can and do escape our ability to control them and the damage they can do. Innocent people can get hurt, property is destroyed, beautiful areas are ruined, and we can feel helpless.

Emotional overload.  We might be feeling like we can’t catch our breath between disasters. We may find ourselves moody, irritable, impatient, or have difficulty concentrating. These are all normal reactions to catastrophic events.

Fear of additional destruction.  We don’t know what will happen next, so we are in a state of alert.

Uncertainty.  We don’t know when this situation will be contained, or if other disasters loom on the horizon; and if we are relocated, we don’t know when we can return, and what may be facing us when we do. If we are assisting others, the indefinite nature of this event can also be stressful.

Trauma associated with seeing so much destruction so close at hand.  Seeing the tremendous destructive power of earthquakes and the possibility of being in harm’s way can be very disturbing.

Feelings that there should have been some way to prevent such a disaster from happening.

Media coverage.  When we view and review the damage repeatedly, we can all be impacted by the disaster.

For more information, contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 541-737-2131.

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