The psychological dimension refers to the role of thoughts, emotion, and behavior on individual, group, or community functioning. Inclusion of this dimension also requires us to look at the mind-body connection in the assessment of a variety of common social work phenomena such as the emotional regulation of stress. People exposed to disaster can present with a variety of emotional responses, from emotional numbness and apathy to panic and overt grief. Cognitive reactions to stress may involve difficulty concentrating and memory problems.
Stress: Stress is a normal response to a physical or emotional challenge and occurs when demands are out of balance with resources for coping. Reactions to stress may differ and depend upon the severity of the duration, as well as upon the individual’s characteristics and previous experiences.
Resilience: Resilience is the ability to respond to and recover from a disaster quickly, effectively and efficiently. Many people will be resilient and will return to pre-incident functioning in a relatively short period of time with no intervention whatsoever. Early intervention reduces risk.
Severe Reactions: Most people experience normal stress reactions which fade and gradually disappear. Some people may find that these reactions persist over a longer period of time and worsen, resulting in the need for professional help. The tree most common disorders are anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Anxiety: People who feel anxiety experience muscle tension, restlessness, panic, or a sense of impending doom. They often also have anxious thoughts, such as fears of dying of a heart attack, fears of embarrassment or humiliation, or fears of something terrible happening. In addition, they often have uncomfortable physical sensations, including heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, or shortness of breath. (American Psychological Association, 2012, www.apa.org).
- Depression: People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. (American Psychological Association, 2012, www.apa.org).
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): An anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident or natural disaster. People with PTSD may relive the event via intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares; avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma; and have anxious feelings they didn’t have before that are so intense their lives are disrupted. (American Psychological Association, 2012, www.apa.org).