Research on the psychological effect of both natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina) and man-made disasters (e.g., war) shows the following: Most people do not experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, many people do.
Who will and who will not develop PTSD? It is hard to predict.
The severity of the trauma, its duration, early life events, and lack of a good support network are predisposing factors. First responders as a group are considered “at risk”.
People whose losses–as viewed by outsiders–are not among the worst may, nonetheless, develop PTSD. After Hurricane Sandy, news coverage focused on the most dramatic devastation. People not in the most devastated areas tended to shrug off, minimize, or feel guilty about their own misery.
Do you need professional help? First and foremost, trust your gut.
Second, do family and friends–subtly or not so subtly–tell you to go for help? If so, listen!
Third, there is a screening test on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA) website. Go to “Screening for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”.
The diagnostic process is complex. Only licensed mental health professionals are qualified to make a diagnosis. (Some people, by the way, have more than one diagnosis).
I agree with the advice given by AADA. Take the results of your screening to a health care professional.
Want more information about PTSD? WebMD has an article. It is appropriately titled “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.
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