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Hurricane Katrina and Post-Traumatic Stress

Caroline Clauss-Ehlers

The nation and the world gave witness to the terror experienced by those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Reuters news agency reported that one million people were displaced. Almost half were from New Orleans, where approximately 450,000 residents were evacuated. In addition,1,700 children were separated from their families after the hurricane and listed with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Without a doubt, Hurricane Katrina is the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. We have read about how resources such as shelter and food have been allocated to help those affected by the disaster. It is expected that in the months to come we are also going to learn more about the emotional needs of those who survived the hurricane, lost family members, and continue to look for their children and loved ones.

The onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after individuals experience or witness a traumatic situation. Not knowing the whereabouts of loved ones and their state of well-being also qualify as traumatic events. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress are usually apparent during the first three months after the trauma has occurred. For some, however, symptoms do not manifest until months or even years after the trauma is experienced. Alternatively, some individuals live through a traumatic incident like Hurricane Katrina and never develop PTSD. Symptoms include the following:

-The sense that the trauma will repeat itself.


-A tendency to become extremely startled in the wake of loud noises (hyper vigilance).



-Anxiety or trembling.

-The sense that the danger will reoccur.

-Difficulty concentrating.

-Difficulty remembering important aspects of the trauma.

-A loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable.

-Difficulty sleeping.

If someone you know was affected by the hurricane and appears to be experiencing these symptoms, it is possible that the individual has PTSD. Talk with your loved one about seeking professional help. Research shows that professional intervention helps people with this problem.

This column is educational. It does not substitute for formal medical advice. Do not use this information without talking with a qualified professional.

Send your questions to Nueva Edad/Hoy,330 West 34St., 17th Floor, New York, NY10001

Or call at(212) 462-9464

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Copyright 2005. Used with permission from Hoy.

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