Hurricane season may trigger PTSD in disaster survivors

Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 8:46 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Hurricane Ian may have skipped over Southwest Louisiana but seeing photos and the constant social media coverage of the devastation left in its wake could be bringing up some painful memories for residents.

If those images or stories are eliciting fear, anxiety, or trouble sleeping, you need to be aware that all of these are signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

According to the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America, between 30% to 40% of victims exposed to hurricanes and other forms of natural disasters develop PTSD.

Lake Area counselor Joel Daugherty says there has been an uptick recently in patients reporting anxiety and has some tips on how to cope while still staying aware.

“Some people do have PTSD that they don’t even realize that they have. It’s really important that people limit, if you are having a problem with stress and anxiety, to limit your exposure to the media. Maybe don’t look at the news reports so much of what’s coming out of Florida.”

Daugherty says that some may notice disturbances in their sleeping patterns, a faster heartbeat, sweaty palms, the inability to think clearly, or even feel like they’re starting to shut down.

He encourages anyone having any of these symptoms to not only take care of yourself physically but also mentally.

“My number one little tip for when we’re going through any huge anxiety-producing event is to make sure you’re sleeping. If your sleep schedule is disturbed that’s going to exasperate any mental health issues that you may be experiencing.”

Also, you should keep in mind that if you stay prepared for a storm by having things like a checklist, prepared supplies, and a plan in place, it can ease your mind and allow you to better take care of yourself physically and mentally.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has a comprehensive guide that can help you make your hurricane plan and know what supplies to have on hand.