Natural disasters

Natural disasters include such events as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and tsunamis. Often these events are unexpected, sudden and overwhelming.

Even when you’re not hurt physically, disasters can take a serious emotional toll. Normal reactions include intense, unpredictable feelings; flashbacks; trouble concentrating or making decisions; disrupted eating and sleeping patterns; emotional upsets on anniversaries or other reminders; strained personal relationships; and physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea or chest pain.

Adapted from the APA Help Center article, "Recovering emotionally from disaster."

Coping with Disaster

  • Managing traumatic stress: After a tornado

    The effects of the recent tornadoes can be long-lasting and the resulting trauma can reverberate even with those not directly affected by the disaster.

  • Tornadoes, hurricanes and children

    The intense feelings that often follow a disaster can be especially hard for children, but there are several things parents and other caregivers can do to help.

  • Disasters & Terrorism

    Disasters are often unexpected, sudden and overwhelming. Understanding normal responses to these abnormal events can help you cope.

  • What psychologists do on disaster relief operations

    Psychologists don’t offer therapy at disaster sites. Instead, they help survivors build on their internal strengths to start the process of recovery.

How Psychologists Help

Monitor on Psychology Articles


APA Offices and Programs

  • Disaster Response Network

    APA's Disaster Response Network is a group of approximately 2,500 licensed psychologists across the U.S. and Canada who have expertise in the psychological impact of disasters on individuals, families and communities. Informed by psychological research, Disaster Response Network members voluntarily engage in preparedness, response and recovery activities.

  • Trans-World Resource Network:
    a Clearinghouse for Disaster Response Resources

    APA's Trans-Wrold Clearinghouse provides disaster-related psychological resources and information about effective ongoing disaster-response initiatives and pee-reviewed research on disaster response and prevention.

  • APA Statement on the Role of Psychologists in International Emergencies

    This statement is intended to orient psychologists to effective disaster response contributions. It is based on international guidelines for psychosocial intervention, on guidance from APA’s Disaster Response Network and its Committee on International Relations in Psychology.

  • Resolution on The Psychological Needs of Children Exposed to Disasters

    APA's Council of Representatives has declared the development and implementation of a national strategy to prevent and treat the psychological dysfunction resulting from exposure of children and their families to disasters a matter of the highest priority, and supports the establishment of policies to maintain their psychological well-being.