Disasters

 Natural disasters

Disasters, from natural events such as hurricanes or earthquakes, to human-caused incidents such as mass shootings or terrorist attacks, are typically unexpected and overwhelming.

Even when you’re not hurt physically, disasters can take an emotional toll. Normal reactions may include intense, unpredictable feelings; 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. Psychological research shows that many people are able to successfully recover from disaster. Taking active steps to cope is important.

Coping with Disaster

APA’s Psychology Help Center has useful information for the public on how to prepare for and cope with psychological challenges that can occur when there is a disaster. The Disasters & Terrorism section has resources for adults and children categorized by the type of disaster.

How Psychologists Help

  • Disaster Resource Network

    APA's Disaster Resource 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 Resource Network members voluntarily engage in preparedness, response and recovery activities.

  • 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.

  • APA Statement on the Role of Psychologists in International Emergencies

    Prepared by APA’s Disaster Resource Network (DRN) and APA’s Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP), this document outlines ways psychologists can effectively respond to international disasters.

  • FAQ for APA response to international disasters

    Information about APA's response to the international disasters, including web-based psychological resources, aiding the United Nations, fielding media inquiries and donating to the American Red Cross.

Related APA Publications

APA Offices and Programs

  • Disaster Resource Network

    APA's Disaster Resource 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 Resource 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 peer-reviewed research on disaster response and prevention.

  • APA Statement on the Role of Psychologists in International Emergencies

    Prepared by APA’s Disaster Resource Network (DRN) and APA’s Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP), this document outlines ways psychologists can effectively respond to international disasters.

  • 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.