Hurricane Sandy to Have Emotional Impact on Children and Teens

First Posted: Nov 07, 2012 03:44 AM EST

According to the new study, the children who experienced Hurricane Sandy's destruction particularly those whose families suffered significant losses will exhibit symptoms such as withdrawal, depression, sleeplessness and unusually aggressive behavior   that are commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  

All the coastal communities in the United States are still reeling from the devastation that was triggered by hurricane Sandy. Over 4000 houses were damaged and most of them continue to face power problems.

Hurricane Sandy, which left a trail of destruction in its path, may have done some unseen damage to many children who were caught in the storm's passage.

According to psychologists, children whose families suffered significant losses in the super storm may exhibit some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The lasting emotional impact of a storm like this can be more devastating than the physical damage the storm caused," says psychologist Esther Deblinger, PhD, the co-director of the Child Abuse Research, Education and Service (CARES) Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "Stress, anxiety and depression can affect anyone who experiences a natural disaster that results in the sudden loss of home or relocation to unfamiliar surroundings. The effect can be especially troubling on children and adolescents who don't have the same ability as adults to anticipate and cope with trauma."

According to Dr Deblinger, if no precautionary steps are taken then there is a risk that these symptoms could last a lifetime.

Dr. Deblinger suggests that parents and caregivers help children cope with the stress and anxiety resulting from Hurricane Sandy by returning to normal routines as soon as possible. He advises families to follow familiar rituals like bedtime stories and family meals which will be comforting for children

Apart from this they should minimize viewing television coverage about the storm as the news can provoke anxiety in young people. Parents should encourage optimism about managing the aftermath of the storm and preparing for the future. He also suggests professional help if the stress symptoms exhibited by the children persist.

."While most children are resilient and will bounce back from the experience, others are going to need help to recover and feel safe again," Dr. Deblinger says. "In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we saw that the children who were most vulnerable to developing anxiety, and even PTSD or depression, had either experienced other significant trauma or emotional difficulties in their past, or had parents who were having difficulty coping with the effects of the storm."

"Decades of research have shown that some children, particularly those who have experienced multiple trauma(s), don't eventually 'get over' or 'outgrow' their experiences," she notes. "Left to recover on their own, some children and adolescents may turn to alcohol, drugs and/or other ineffective ways of coping with the distressing feelings and debilitating symptoms associated with PTSD," states Dr. Deblinger.

Prior to this Dr. Deblinger has worked with children to help recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and to train other therapists in the use of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), a treatment model that she developed with Drs. Judith Cohen and Anthony Mannarino. TF-CBT has been used worldwide to help children overcome stress disorders caused by a variety of traumas.

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