coping with trauma

El Huracán Sandy: Como Lidiar con las Secuelas Emocionales

Por Nerina Garcia,-Arcement Ph.D. Traducción por Carla Saad, B.A.

Los desastres naturales, como el Huracán Sandy, nos recuerdan que tan vulnerables somos.  Entre más cercano haya sido la experiencia de uno con el huracán, la reacción que uno sentirá después podrá ser más intensa.  Al sobrevivir un desastre natural como el Huracán Sandy, uno puede sentir estrés, ansiedad, depresión y síntomas del trastorno de estrés postraumático.  Si usted ha sufrido de problemas emocionales en el pasado, el enfrentarse con un evento estresante, como el Huracán Sandy, puede exacerbar éstas condiciones pre-existentes.

Algunas de las reacciones emocionales típicas que uno puede sentir tras vivir un desastre natural incluyen sentimientos de incredulidad, sentirse confundido o indefenso, irritabilidad, tristeza, miedo, dificultad para concentrarse y para tomar decisiones, sentirse preocupado y pensar constantemente acerca de lo que paso durante/después de la tormenta, sentir preocupación por consecuencias negativas que puedan llegar a ocurrir, y sentir que uno está volviendo a vivir los eventos del desastre.  Algunas de las reacciones físicas comunes que uno puede tener incluyen: dificultad para dormir, tener pesadillas, sentirse nervioso y sobresaltarse con facilidad, latidos rápidos del corazón, problemas para respirar, dolor de cabeza y sentirse tembloroso.

Hay varias cosas que usted puede hacer para sentirse mejor si ha notado que está teniendo éstos problemas:

  1. No se aísle: Busque apoyo de gente querida, amigos y vecinos que entiendan lo que usted está viviendo. Esto le ayudará a darse cuenta que no está solo, y no es el único que siente éste dolor.
  2. Hable con amigos y gente querida acerca de como se siente: El expresar sus preocupaciones, miedos, ansiedades, tristeza, sentimientos de incredulidad y confusión puede ser un proceso curativo y catártico.
  3. Limite ver noticieros: Ver las imágenes de destrucción únicamente recuerdan la experiencia traumática y reafirman los sentimientos de miedo y vulnerabilidad.
  4. Participe en actividades de recursos de socorro: El ser voluntario y donar su tiempo en esfuerzos de ayuda humanitaria le ayudará a sentir mayor control y sentir que puede causar un impacto positivo. Ayudar a otras personas a sentir menos dolor, le puede ayudar a aliviar su propio dolor.
  5. Participe en pasatiempos o en actividades positivas: El participar en actividades que uno disfruta le ayuda a distraerse y en no pensar en su aflicción, y le recordará que aún existe belleza y creatividad en el mundo, y no solamente destrucción.
  6. 6.      Manténgase activo: Haga ejercicio, o salga a dar caminatas. Estas actividades le ayudarán a no pensar en sus problemas. El mantener el cuerpo activo le ayuda a liberar hormonas que reducen el estrés.

Si después de intentar éstos consejos usted todavía se siento afligido, considere hablar con un experto en problemas de salud mental o con un consejero espiritual.  El sobrevivir un desastre natural puede tener impactos negativos y duraderos en la manera en que nos sentimos y en la que vemos el mundo.  El enfrentar el dolor emocional lo antes posible reduce las probabilidades de que los síntomas de estrés, ansiedad, depresión y del trastorno de estrés postraumático sean duraderos, y persistan en los años por venir.

Trauma and Disaster: Helping Teens Manage the Impact of Hurricane Sandy

Listen to my interview on The Mary Waldon Show on the emotional impact and how to cope with Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy has had a tremendous impact on countless families up and down the east coast of the United States. Such an event can leave even the most well-informed parent with questions and concerns.What is the potential impact of natural disasters and other traumas on teenagers? What can parents do to help mitigate the impact of Hurricane Sandy? What is an expected reaction to such extreme events, and what kinds of reactions indicate a need for professional intervention? For answers to these and other related questions, please tune in to The Mary Waldon Show to hear the insight and expertise of Dr. Nerina Garcia-Arcement, an expert in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Link to radio show

Hurricane Sandy: Coping with the Emotional Aftermath

By Nerina Garcia-Arcement, Ph.D. Natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, remind us of our vulnerability. The closer the impact of the hurricane to you the more intense your reaction can be. Surviving a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy can bring about stress, anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress symptoms. If you have experienced emotional distress in the past, then a major stressor such as Hurricane Sandy is likely to exacerbate a pre-existing condition.

Typical emotional reactions include disbelief, feeling confused or helpless, irritability, sadness, fear, difficulty focusing and making decisions, feeling preoccupied and ruminating about what happened during/after the storm, worrying about what future negative things could occur, and re-experiencing events from the disaster. Common physical reactions are sleep problems, nightmares, feeling jumpy and being easily startled, racing heart, trouble breathing, headaches and trembling.

If you notice you are experiencing these problems there are actions you can take to feel better:

  1. Do not isolate yourself: Seek out support from loved ones, friends and neighbors that know what you are going through.  This will help you realize you are not alone in your pain.
  2. Talk to friends and loved ones about how you are feeling: Expressing your worries, fears, anxieties, sadness, disbelief and confusion can be healing and cathartic.
  3. Limit your news watching: Seeing the images of destruction simply reminds you of your traumatic experience and reinforces your feelings of fear and vulnerability.
  4. Donate or volunteer your time through relief efforts: This will help you feel more in control and that you can make a difference. Aiding others through their pain helps reduce your own.
  5. Engage in hobbies or life affirming activities: Doing things you enjoy will help distract you from your distress and remind you that there is beauty and creativity in the world, not just destruction.
  6. Stay Active: Exercise or go outside for walks. These activities will get your mind off of your problems.  Getting your body moving will help release hormones that relieve stress.

If you find you are still distressed after trying these suggestions, consider talking to a mental health professional or a faith based adviser. Surviving a natural disaster can have a lasting negative impact on how you see the world and how you feel. Addressing your emotional pain now can reduce the chances of your stress, anxiety, depression or PTSD symptoms lasting for years into the future.


Domestic violence and mental health: How are they intertwined?

Domestic violence leads to complicated emotional reactions. In this article I share information that sheds light on typical reactions to trauma and why it is difficult for the abused to leave.

By Rheyanne Weaver |

The United States still has a lot of work to do in regard to addressing the prevalence of domestic violence.

In fact, an in-depth story from the Arizona Republic has pointed to the fact that in the last several years, the number of deaths from domestic violence has stayed fairly consistent in Arizona.

While this means there hasn’t really been an increase in deaths, there certainly hasn’t been a decrease either.

Fortunately, researchers are seeking more information about domestic violence and specifically about domestic violence that ends in death. Not surprisingly, much of the research has a mental health aspect.

For example, the article mentioned how substance abuse, depression and estrangement are just some of many risk factors that could increase a battered woman’s chance of eventually being killed by her partner.

Later, the article explained that generally before a battered woman’s life ends at the hands of her partner, there are warning signs. For example, the partner usually engages in a specific kind of abusive behavior called “intimate partner terrorism” or “coercive control.”

“Coercive control is almost exclusively the domain of men,” according to the article. “It is long-term and tyrannical abuse that includes, often in addition to physical violence, attacks on a woman's self-worth, degrading remarks and obsessive monitoring of her whereabouts and her contact with other people.”

The abuser often has mental health issues like depression or substance abuse, and struggles with obsessive and possessive behavior. In some cases, abusers cope with massive self-shame by severely abusing or killing their partners.

Mental health experts have more insight into how domestic violence can impact mental health, and what issues sometimes predispose people to being in relationships that involve domestic violence.

Nerina Garcia-Arcement, a licensed clinical psychology and a clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, said in an email that there is a gradual process that leads from “normal” relationships to relationships involving domestic violence.

“Women don't enter violent relationships where they are being hit from day one,” Garcia-Arcement said. “They date men that pay attention to them, are possessive and slowly begin to limit their behavior and social interactions (i.e., the woman can't talk to friends or family as much or at all, or she can't wear certain things). Often this controlling behavior is couched as ‘loving them.’"

Then comes the act of lowering the victim's self-esteem.

“Once they are socially isolated, they (abusers) begin to erode their self-esteem by insulting them or calling them names, telling them that no one else would want them, etc.,” Garcia-Arcement said. “Once the (victim’s) self esteem is fragile, they often begin the physical abuse.”

“This is why women don't just leave,” she added. “By the time they are being hit, they are socially isolated, feel stupid and undesirable, doubt their self-worth and fear the consequences of leaving. If they are not staying out of fear, they are staying because they have come to believe they deserve this treatment, that they are at fault for being hit, for ‘being stupid/saying the wrong thing,’ etc."

Women in abusive relationships tend to suffer from mental health issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result, she said.

“Many women who are in abusive relationships grew up in households where they witnessed abuse,” Garcia-Arcement said. “This normalizes it. Confuses love and violence. This is a pattern that is familiar. For other women (who) don't grow up in abusive households, the typical cycle of abuse prepares them. Their self-esteem gets eroded until the abuse makes sense.”

David M. Reiss, a psychiatrist and previous interim medical director for Providence Behavioral Health Hospital, just spoke at the 35th annual convention of the International Psychohistorical Association about child abuse and trauma, and their impact on individuals, communities and society. He said in an email that relationships with domestic violence are characterized by dysfunction and pathology.

“No relationship can maintain appropriate intimacy and trust if there is violence occurring,” Reiss said.

Some women also try to rationalize that it’s better for the children if they stay with their abusive partner.

“Staying ‘for the children’ is misguided, as children need role models who do not let themselves be abused,” Reiss added.

Freda Emmons, the author of “Flame of Healing: A Daily Journey of Healing From Abuse and Trauma,” said in an email that she grew up with abuse throughout her childhood.

Her mother was a victim of abuse by her father, and the mother also contributed to some child abuse along with the father.

“I asked her once why she stayed and she said it was because of us kids; she didn't believe that she could provide for us,” Emmons said. “I told her it would have been better to get assistance or whatever she could do to spare us the horrible years of pain.”

However, Emmons’ mother couldn’t take care of herself and was suffering from issues that are associated with abuse victims, so she was unable to protect her children from their father or herself.

“I think some women have been so battered, physically and emotionally, that they have lost their sense of personal value,” Emmons said. “They think that they are the cause of the problem, that if they would just be a better wife, mother, spouse, cook, cleaner, etc. that the abuse would stop. It never does.”

She hopes her book can help others find a way out of the despair she experienced.