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Last modified: Wednesday, 30-Apr-2014 16:55:36 EDT

University Counseling Center (UCC)

Managing traumatic stress: After a Tornado

The effects of tornadoes can be long-lasting and the resulting trauma can reverberate even with those not directly affected by the disaster.

It is common for people who have experienced traumatic situations to have very strong emotional reactions. Understanding normal responses to these abnormal events can aid you in coping effectively with your feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and help you along the path to recovery.

How should I help myself and my family?

Many people already possess the skills of resilience and will bounce back on their own, given time. There also are a number of steps you can take to help restore emotional well being and a sense of control following a natural disaster, including the following:

When should I seek professional help?

Many people are able to cope effectively with the emotional and physical demands brought about by a natural disaster by using their own support systems. It is not unusual, however, to find that serious problems persist and continue to interfere with daily living. For example, some may feel overwhelming nervousness or lingering sadness that adversely affects job performance and interpersonal relationships.

Individuals with prolonged reactions that disrupt their daily functioning should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers help educate people about common responses to extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals affected by trauma to help them find constructive ways of dealing with the emotional impact.

With children, continual and aggressive emotional outbursts, serious problems at school, preoccupation with the traumatic event, continued and extreme withdrawal, and other signs of intense anxiety or emotional difficulties all point to the need for professional assistance. A qualified mental health professional such as a psychologist can help such children and their parents understand and deal with thoughts, feelings and behaviors that result from trauma.

Thanks to psychologists Rosalind Dorlen, PsyD; Richard A. Heaps, PhD, ABPP; Rosemary Schwartzbard, PhD; and Suzan M. Stafford, EdD

Updated August 2011
American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association: Psychology Help Center
Managing traumatic stress: After a Tornadoe

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