The Tsunami disaster that occurred towards the end of 2004 resulted in a huge burden on the community both in physical terms and psychological trauma. A big number of the population lost their lives and property worth millions of dollars was destroyed. In addition, members of the families that were diseased were left with psychological trauma that affected them after the event. The community and government were left with a major challenge of how to cope with the physical and psychological stress that was quite evident.
Many individuals were not only in need of material assistance, but also psychosocial care to help them cope with the psychological trauma they went through. Most of the individuals suffered from anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, as well as post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). PTSD is a disorder people go through after experiencing a dangerous event. This is a severe disorder and can last for a few days to months.
The severity depends on the intensity of the dangerous event as well as the surrounding circumstances. PTSD is also experienced by solders after taking part in wars and the symptoms can affect them for the rest of their lives. Most of the Tsunami victims experienced PTSD which affected their family life, social life as well as their work. Most of them had to shelter in camps since most of their houses were destroyed. It is in these camps that they received both physical and psychological help. This paper will look at what is meant by PTSD and the symptoms of this disorder. It also gives an overview of the Tsunami disaster including the physical and psychological effects of the dangerous events. It will go further to highlight the recovery response that was initiated to help the Tsunami PTSD patients and conclude by looking at the psychoanalysis theory developed by Sigmund Freud.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety people go through after experiencing a dangerous event. When people are in danger, they are normally engraved with fear and uncertainties of the outcomes of such an event. This is a health response and it is meant to help the body as it defends itself against danger. However, a person who experiences post traumatic stress (PTSD) may have a damaged reaction. Individuals under PTSD most of the time feel strained and terrified even when out of danger. They fear for their lives and most of them suffer from sleepless nights because they are even afraid of sleeping (Myers, 2010).
The occurrence of the dangerous event keeps recurring on people’s mind causing anxiety and depression. If a person is not treated early, he may suffer from PTSD for the rest of his life and may even lead to untimely death. Any person can be a victim of PTSD; it affects children, the youths, and even old people. It normally affects people who have gone through a dangerous situation or witnessed a dangerous event. Events that can cause PTSD include war, sexual assault, motor accidents, and natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, the tsunami, and many others. However, it is worth noting that not every person that experiences PTSD has actually experienced a dangerous event.
There are people who get PTSD after receiving bad news, for instances, news about the death of a loved one or a friend.
Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD vary with the kind of danger. These symptoms can be classified into three classes as follows: 1. Re-experiencing symptoms- this includes flashbacks about the dangerous event, bad dreams, or terrifying thoughts. These symptoms may interfere with a person’s daily routine because of lack of concentration. Some people even day dream and may bust out crying, shouting or running for help. Symptoms may be re-experienced where object or even prevailing situations may elicit the signs (Myers, 2010). These symptoms require professional help to deal with because a person experiencing them live with self denial and does not accept what he is going through.
They can last for 4-6 weeks or even months after the event but this depends on a person’s willingness to accept assistance and the desire to change. 2. Avoidance symptoms- a person experiencing PTSD tries to keep away from any object or situation that will be a constant reminder of the event. Others even withdraw themselves from the society and their participation in social activities diminishes. At times, they may be overcome by feel emotions and start carrying without a reason. Other people experience depression, worry or remorse, while others may tend to shun away from activities that they found enjoyable before the event took place. The first step in helping a person with these symptoms is to remove all objects that may act as a constant reminder of the event and also to change his environment so that he is able to see life from another angle.
3. Hyper arousal symptoms- they include feeling tense, insomnia, or being angered easily. These symptoms are hardly triggered by objects that remind a person about a dangerous event but they are rather constant. They make a person to feel stressed and angry most of the time which may not be pleasant especially in a work place (Myers, 2010).
These are the most severe symptoms since they do not only affect the individual psychology but also that of the people around him. It is very normal to go through these symptoms after going experiencing a dangerous event. Some people experience them for a short period of time while others may experience them for months if not years.
The Tsunami and the Psychological Effects
A great tsunami occurred on December 24, 2004 and affected a large population from some parts of East Africa and South Asia. It was a natural disaster that did not only take the lives of many people but also destroyed a lot of property.
In Sri Lanka (which was the most hit region) alone, 31, 187 people were reported dead, more than four thousand were reported missing, over twenty thousand had been injured and almost half a million people were displaced (Tull, 2009). As it is normal in many dangerous events, the tsunami was not an exemption as many people were left with psychological problems especially those who witnessed the disaster in Sri Lanka. A study that was carried out about 4 weeks after the tsunami discovered that about 39% of children were suffering from PTSD (Daily News Sri Lanka, 2005). A similar study found out that more than 40% of adolescents and about 20% of adult women showed symptoms of PTSD 4 months later (Daily News Sri Lanka, 2005). However, the researches do not provide enough information about the long-term effects of the crisis but according to WHO a bigger percentage of people gradually developed symptoms of PTSD due to the event. To verify this claim, an international research group was formed to study the post-tsunami effect. A study was carried out in Peraliya in Sri Lanka district about one year after the disaster.
This is an area where more than 2, 000 people had lost their lives and proximately 450 families had been displaced, and the entire society was in a mess. A part from the natural disaster, many people had gone through many psychological effects. For instance, about 80% feared for their life because they could still visualize the event that took place. More than 50% had already lost at least one member of the family and they had constant flashback of the event while approximately 80% had lost a friend. On the other hand, part of the population that was interviewed explained how some of their family members and friends had been seriously injured as a result of the crisis and they could spend sleepless nights. Out of all the participants of the study, 21% experienced PTSD, 16% suffered from severe depression, 30% had relentless anxiety, while more than 22% had somatic signs (Tull, 2009). Some of the symptoms that were common among many victims of the Tsunami were tension, fear, anxiety, confusion, flashbacks, plus other permanent emotional scars. Other people expressed pessimistic thoughts, withdrawal from social activities, among other physical symptoms.
Some people were able to cope with these psychological effects while others needed professional care. Some of the disaster survivors developed psychiatric disorders including but not limited to anxiety disorders, depression disorders, and PTSD. Most of the victims suffering from PTSD depressed and could not understand what was happening to them (Daily News Sri Lanka, 2005). They resorted to crying a lot to at least try to ease the pain although this did not work. Some of them wished to die because they could not carry the burden that was imposed on them. It was difficult for family members trying to help those suffering from PTSD because they too were still in agony. It is not always easy to witness the death of a loved one and lead a normal life.
What was happening to the post-tsunami victims was normal and it is associated to all dangerous events.
Post-Tsunami Management of PTSD
Many people can recover from PTSD on their own if they are given proper education, they are supported, and their lifestyles modified. The first step in helping a person under PTSD is to help him come into terms with the condition he is going through and to reassure him that what he is going through is normal and is as a result of the traumatic event that he experienced. Also support from family members, friends, and other professionals helps a person to recover quickly from PTSD.
Some anxiety management strategies such as breathing techniques and involvement in social activities have also been known to play a big part in the recovery process. However, patients with severe symptoms of PTSD such as recurrent flashbacks, and lack of sleep and those not responding to PTSD treatment should be referred to a psychiatrist (WHO, 2005). Most of people who were displaced from tsunami crisis lived in relief camps. Following the disaster, many people were concerned with what had happened and were ready to offer their help in order to help the victims recover from the psychological trauma they went through. A large number of volunteers all over the world visited these camps to sympathize with the victims. They carried their toolboxes of psychosocial and trauma recovery activities which added confusion and amusement to the people who benefited from their activities as well as the authorities that were concerned with the recovery process.
Psychosocial and mental health programs were initiated in the relief camps by the United States agencies, non-governmental, and governmental institutions to help the victims come into terms with the event. These programs revived political support, which accelerated the recovery process and many PTSD patients were able to benefit from these programs. In addition, the president of Sri Lanka supported psychological intervention process both financially and psychologically. He gave these processes the first priority among all the programs that started as part of post-tsunami recovery plan.
He realized that if those victims continued to suffer psychologically, no amount of material support would help them come out of the crisis. The president went further to caution all authorities involved in the recovery program to make sure that all personnel hired to conduct the post-trauma counseling were qualified and had enough experience (WHO, 2005). This is for the reason that some people may be so much willing to offer their help but such assistance may sometimes not be professional and may be only based on belief which can engrave the problem instead of solving it. The acronym PTSD and the word psychosocial were used too often and they became part of the post-tsunami recovery plan. They even became the widely used terms by both politicians and news columnists. As a team, we also took part in helping the internally displaced persons from the Tsunami.
We organized a small fund rising within the school compound where we collected money, clothing as well as food. We visited the victims at the camps and donated some of the material things we had managed to collect and went a head to talk with then. We played with the children who looked depressed to help them come to terms with their predicament.
Since we could not offer any professional psychological help, we just had a general talk with some of the victims and assured them that, they are people out there who care for them and a ready to offer a should to cry on.
The Theory of Psychoanalysis
From research, it has been found that psychoanalysis forms part of the recovery treatment for people under PTSD. This theory was first developed by Sigmund Freud. He is one of the ancient psychologists. The aim of this theory was to study the psychological functioning of human beings and their behavior. Fraud established clinical procedures that would be used to treat mentally ill persons.
According to him, individual personality is developed from childhood experiences. The aim of this therapy was to convey reserved thoughts and mind-set into consciousness in order to free the patient from suffering recurring fuzzy emotions. These reserved thoughts and feelings are brought to consciousness by encouraging a conversation between the doctor and the patient. Patients are encouraged to talk freely and express their dreams and experiences (Asiado, 2007). According to Freud, psychoanalysis is a process used to treat individuals suffering from psychological problems. He called it “The doctor’s ‘treatment’ and it involves eliciting repressed memories from the patient by interpreting the responses to his questions” (Asiado, 2007).
He observed that a person suffering from psychology problems would be encouraged to re-live previous experience and this would be used as a technique for treatment. The theory involves intervention such as confronting and illuminating the patient’s pathological suspicions, desires, and guilt. Through analysis of individual’s conflicts, psychoanalysis treatment can be used to prove that patients’ unconsciousness is the worst threat of causing symptoms. This progression assists in determining solutions for the reticent conflicts. In the psyche, the interpretation of Dreams, Freud proposed that dreams can be used to demonstrate the judgment of the unconscious mind.
He described dreams as the noble road to the unconscious. In the unconscious mind painful memories are repressed but can be accessed through psychoanalysis treatment.
PTSD can affect, children, adolescent, and even adults.
It knows no borders and affects everyone including soldiers who are believed to be the ‘hardest’ persons. Some of the symptoms of PTSD include: recurrent flashbacks, anxiety, depression, insomnia, bad dreams, and pessimistic thought. They are people who exhibit these symptoms for a very short period of time while others continue to suffer for months if not years. An example of a dangerous event that left many people with PTSD is the great Tsunami of 2004. Apart from the physical damage that resulted from this event, many people suffered from psychological disorders including PTSD.
Children, adolescents, and adults were displaced and were sheltered in relief camps. Some of the symptoms exhibited by the individuals suffering from PTSD included flashbacks, depression, stress, anxiety, loss of self control, pessimist thoughts, and many more. Most of the people who were displaced were sheltered in relief camps where they received both local and international visitors who sympathized with their predicament. This is where many non-governmental, governmental and U.S. agencies offered their assistance to the victims. They were given both material support and psychological support.
Psychological intervention programs were initiated with the support of the president of Sri Lanka to help the people who were suffering from PTSD. The psychological treatment which they received was based on the psychoanalysis theory developed by Sigmund Freud.
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