Human Behavior and Response to a Disaster


With a few exceptions people exposed to earthquakes, tornadoes, explosions or other terrifying experiences show psychological “shock” reactions.

The symptoms may vary greatly depending on the individual and also on the nature and severity of the terrifying disaster.

For instance when two trains collide leaving many people dead and many more injured, the tragedy also leaves a large number of people with feelings of fear, guilt, anxiety and many of them might need “talk sessions” by psychiatrists.


A “disaster syndrome” appears to characterize the reactions of many victims of such disasters.

The disaster syndrome:- A victim’s initial response following a disaster typically involves three stages, viz.,

1) Shock stage:

In this stage, the victims are stunned, dazed and apathetic.


2) The Suggestible Stage:

In this stage, the victim tends to be passive, but open to suggestions and willing to take directions from rescue workers and others.

3) The Recovery Stage:

In this stage, the individual may be tense and apprehensive and may show generalized anxiety but gradually regains psychological equilibrium often showing a need to repetitively tell about the catastrophic event.


It has been seen that in disaster situations the response of an individual varies from heroism to post-traumatic stress disorder depending on one’s personality.

The suffering people should be given supportive psychological treatment. Proper rest usually can alleviate symptoms that lead to Post- traumatic stress disorder. In general, the more stable and better integrated a personality and the more favorable an individuals’ life situation, the more quickly he or she will recover from a severe stress reaction.


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