Coping With Natural Disasters and Other Tragedies

This web page gives examples of some common responses to disaster and traumatic events and additional tips for coping and self care.

Memorial Service

Typical Responses to Tragedy and Disaster

Emotional Responses

  • Shock/Denial
  • Fear/Anxiety
  • Anger or Irritability
  • Depression
  • Feelings of Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Numbness
  • Mood Changes
  • Grief

Behavioral Responses

  • Changes in Activity Level
  • Social Withdrawal or Isolation
  • Restlessness/Agitation/Pacing
  • Eating or Appetite Changes
  • Sleep Disturbance/Insomnia
  • Increased Use of Alcohol/Drugs
  • Inability to Relax

Cognitive Responses

  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty Making Decisions
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Dreams/Nightmares of Event
  • Confusion
  • “Flashbacks” of Crisis Event
  • Confusion or Self-doubt

Physical Responses

  • Fatigue/Loss of Energy
  • Headaches/Back Pain
  • GI Distress/Nausea/Vomiting
  • Muscle Tension
  • Trembling
  • Rapid Heart Beat
  • Sweating or Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Exaggerated Startle Response
  • Weakness

Tips for Coping and Self-Care

  • Reach out and make contact with others.
  • Talk with friends and loved ones.
  • Recognize and accept your feelings as "normal" responses to extreme circumstances.
  • Express your feelings appropriately; consider keeping a journal to help in the process.
  • Structure your time.
  • Maintain your usual schedule as much as you can.
  • Get extra rest and set aside time to relax.
  • Eat regular balanced meals even if you don't feel hungry.
  • Exercise or participate in some regular physical activity.
  • Don't make major decisions or changes in your life.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Consider contacting CAPS or a mental health professional if symptoms persist at (850) 474-2420.
The above content was included with permission of the Director of CAPS at the University of Mary Washington.

Additional Resources

American Psychological Association: Recovering Emotionally From Disaster Recovering After a Natural Disaster

Escambia County Division of Emergency Management: General Flood Information

Coping with loss and change in a community after a natural disaster.

Getting through floods, drought, and extreme climate events.