How To Know If You Have PTSD After You’ve Been In A Natural Disaster

Psychologist Georgina Reyes explains how to know if you have PTSD after a natural disaster. The most important thing is to embrace your feelings and express your emotions.

After surviving a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, a hurricane, or a fire, people often find it difficult to overcome fear and traumatic memories.

We talked to psychologist Georgina Reyes to learn more about how a situation like this can affect someone and how post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect people.

Photo: Nikko Macaspac

How do you know if you have PTSD after a natural disaster?

Reyes says that the first step to diagnose PTSD after any situation is to identify the main areas in a person’s life, that is: family, work, social life, and health. So, when someone lives through a natural disaster or any life-threatening situation, it is associated to all the background stories that person has. Therefore, it might be difficult for the person to deal with the traumatic situation, and they might feel more threatened if they already have unresolved issues from the past.

What are the signs of PTSD?

Besides the clinical background of the patient, the probability to have PTSD depends a lot on their personality. The symptoms might be irritability, anger, health problems, and other somatic manifestations such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems or even dental issues. People with PTSD might also have mood swings, insomnia, lack of appetite, and difficulty to enjoy good moments in life.

Photo: Filippo Andolfatto

What is the best treatment for PTSD?

The solution is to express their feelings and emotions in therapy, so that the professional can analyze all the elements involved in their situation. There are many ways to identify PTSD, but it is better if a specialist diagnoses and addresses the problem, rather than a close friend or family member, so the professional can determine what is the best treatment for the patient.

“People can confuse PTSD with the inability to bear or deal with a difficult situation, and takes us even farther from finding a solution to the problem."

There will be cases where it is necessary to provide the patient with a stimulant, so it is important to treat each case individually and see if this is the best treatment.

The most important thing is not to ignore the patient’s symptoms. “You should not tell the person that they can’t feel or cry, or tell them that being alive and surviving the disaster is what counts.”

When PTSD is not treated, it can have fatal consequences, so it is very important to determine what was it that caused the situation, in order to understand their feelings better.

Photo: Nik Shuliahin

Alarming reactions

The psychologist explains that it is normal to have strong reactions to shocking events, such as natural disasters or the death of a loved one. An abnormal reaction would be not expressing anything at all. Anyway, it all depends on the personality of the patient and the way they have been reacting since childhood, but she remarks that it is essential not to block or suppress the feelings and identify when the help of a professional is needed.

If you need to heal after a bad experience in your life, don’t be ashamed to ask for help, and also don’t diminish your feelings.


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Translation by Patricia Cordero