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.


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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

Lifeline.org: 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.

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