Unease after the Storm
There has been a lot of talk in therapy this week about the October 20 tornadoes we experienced in Dallas. If you or people you love went through these storms, please know that it is normal to feel heightened anxiety, numbness/detachment, sadness and tearfulness, often all within the same day or hour. I have spoken with a lot of folks who not only feel really anxious, shaken and sad, but also feel guilty about feeling that way because they were not in the direct path, as if they don't have the right to feel that way. There is nothing you do or don't do, are or are not to "deserve" anxiety or depression. It is just an is. I spoke with a neighbor yesterday who said that she never really understood PTSD until she went through that storm (her home suffered damage). I explained that part of the textbook definitions of Acute Stress and PTSD are "exposure to actual or threatened death or serious injury" that occurs through directly experiencing a traumatic event , witnessing in person the event as it occurred to others, or learning that the event occurred to a close family member or close friend. Many of us in the Metroplex have recently been through that. It is ok to feel anxious and sad. That doesn't make you selfish or take away from the heartbreak you feel for those who have suffered losses. It also doesn't mean that you're going to develop PTSD. It is just an is - a response to a traumatic event. The best thing you can do is talk about it. Talk with your family, your friends, your neighbors. If the feelings are unbearable or linger for what feels too long, there are also great professionals in the area who can help you process this experience. As is usually the case, we'll all get through this together.
For more information on how to reduce weather-related anxiety and how to talk to children about their anxiety, see this post by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
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About the Author
Clinical psychologist Dr. Kristy Novinski contributes insights, book and film reviews, discussions of pop culture, and exploration of news and research in the field of psychology.