Coping with a Hurricane: When should I seek professional help?

Some people are able to cope effectively with the emotional and physical demands of the hurricane by using their own support systems. It is not unusual, however, to find that serious problems persist and continue to interfere with daily living. For example, some may feel overwhelming nervousness or lingering sadness that adversely affects interpersonal relationships and job performance.

Individuals with prolonged reactions that disrupt their daily functioning should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional.

Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers help educate people about normal responses to extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals affected by trauma to help them find constructive ways of dealing with the emotional impact. Psychologists and other crisis counselors are deployed to the affected areas. Ask the various organizations providing assistance to direct you to those individuals.

With children, continual and aggressive emotional outbursts, serious problems at school, preoccupation with the hurricane, continued and extreme withdrawal and other signs of intense anxiety or emotional difficulties all point to the need for professional assistance. A qualified mental health professional can help such children and their parents understand and deal with thoughts, feelings and behaviors that result from the storm.

Special thanks to Raymond F. Hanbury, PhD, ABPP and Eva D. Sivan, PhD for their help in preparing this document. Thanks also to the American Psychological Association for permission to reprint this article here.