Major Global Disasters can Bring Negative Psychological Impact after Two Months

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Lab experiments have demonstrated that there is a psychological impact from natural disasters. It is all down to the way people respond to the unpredictable situations around us, according to Dr Magda Osman a psychology expert at Queen Mary, University of London.

That doctor is the author of a book entitled ‘Controlling Uncertainty’ she has declared that the Japanese disasters real effects will be felt, “for some time to come”.  She has outlined how such a disaster as that which occurred in Japan has a wide ranging impact, and it is not only on the psychological impact of those directly affected.

She has stated that the long term residual effect of such disasters is there because it removes from us our feelings that we are in control of our environment. Speaking of how the initial impact in a positive vain she stated, “After a disaster, typically small communities become incredibly co-operative and pull together to help each other and start the rebuilding process. There’s an immediate response where people start to take control of the situation, begin to deal with it and assess and respond to the devastation around them.” She has noted however that there is a difficulty with our knowledge of what happens on a longer term basis. She has pointed that after the initial coming together and clean up there is a ‘second slump,’ it is at this point that major depression can be triggered when the full severity of what has occurred really starts to sit uneasily with the impacted persons.

At the onset of the disaster there is a rapid increase in mental health problems. The doctor described how our sense of control is similar to a mental engine. Continuing with the analogy she said that it is similar to an adaptive driving force which keeps us motivated. It is however when negative things occur that we do not have any control over that we lose our self esteem.

The rehearsing for disaster situations can help in avoiding this mental consequence, the rehearsing increasing our sense of control according to the doctor, creating resilience.

There have been lab experiments conducted by the doctor which show that even when only encouragement to believe we have control is given, that there is a positive mental outcome as a result. The encouragement increases the feeling of control and in effect it actually makes the individual more capable of exerting control.

She also stated how, “Setting goals is the best way of helping to exert or take back control. Working towards goals helps us to gain a lot of information about a situation. Goals act like a yardstick to compare future events against. This helps to reduce our feelings of insecurity because it gives us a way of interpreting the good and bad experiences that happen.”

The evidence that has emerged from the laboratory testing suggests that we overact when huge change comes our way when what we really should be doing is holding on and being steadfast.

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