Weather Worries

When Nature strikes how does the mind cope?

By Colin Allen, published on November 1, 2002 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

At least 36 people died and dozens more are missing after a string
of serious storms hit a half a dozen states from the Great Lakes to the
Deep South. The greatest damage occurred in Tennessee, where 17 are
already reported dead, and in Alabama were the toll now stands at 12.
While the damage will cost millions, the forecast for citizens who were
lucky enough to survive the storm fronts now calls for low levels of
psychological trauma as they recover.

Man-made traumatic events such as terrorist bombings create greater
levels of stress and posttraumatic stress than do incidents of nature.
"Events like [the tornados] are "acts of God;" they don't get their claws
in you," says Richard Driscoll, Ph.D., who has a private practice in
Tennessee. "You don't get the sense that they are after you."

This is not to say that stress was absent during this latest storm
system. Instead, notes Driscoll, it receded with the storm. He expects
that few cases of posttraumatic or acute stress will develop as a direct
result of this weekend's weather. Unlike the recent Washington, D.C.,
area sniper incidents, there is no specific direction for people to point
their anger. "You can be angry at tornadoes, but somehow it's not as
severe as anger toward terrorists," says Driscoll.

Richard Driscoll is the author of
Personal Shielding to Deflect Hostility(Westside
Psychology, 2002).