The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in February, together with the ongoing nuclear crisis, dealt death and destruction on a massive scale. The disasters also caused distress—fear, confusion, sadness, and a host of other psychological problems for survivors. These effects, experts say, could last for decades.
Survivors must cope with the immediate psychological effects of the disasters, such as grief over the loss of loved ones and homes, disorientation, depression, guilt, and anger. Psychologists tending to those affected, including first responders, have noted a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder. Sufferers of PTSD experience a sense of helplessness and anxiety long after the traumatic event that caused their troubles is over. Japanese psychologists point out that the emphasis in Japanese culture on restraining one’s emotions may contribute to the high incidence of PTSD, because people do not feel comfortable sharing about their experiences. This can lead to a sense of isolation and an increase in PTSD symptoms.
There is also a concern among some psychologists that Japanese people may respond collectively to the disaster by adopting negative psychological attitudes. Studies done on past nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl indicate that whole generations can accept a sense of hopelessness. In the wake of similar disasters, survivors of nuclear disasters have come to be viewed, both by themselves and others, as “contaminated.” This has led not only to discrimination by others but also to a lower sense of self-esteem in survivors. Thus, the full effects of the Japanese disaster may not be seen for years.
Image credit: Kyodo via AP Images
- Psychological Impact of Japan Disaster Will Be Felt “for Some Time to Come”
This article discusses the immediate and long-term psychological effects on survivors of the trauma of the Northeast Japan tsunami and earthquake. (Source: ScienceDaily.com, April 17, 2011)
- Mayor of Devastated Town among Survivors Facing Psychological Effects
This CNN article discusses the harsh psychological impact of the Japanese disaster through the eyes of one survivor, the mayor of Rikuzentakata; includes videos and links to related stories. (Source: CNN, April 17, 2011)
- Fear Is Potent Risk of Japan Nuclear Crisis
This article compares the possible effects of the recent natural disaster in Japan with those resulting from previous disasters. (Source: Washington Post, March 14, 2011)