Arts and Sciences

Analyzing reactions and trauma after a disaster

Assist. Prof. Dr. Eliz Volkan, the director of PCGC at Cyprus International University (CIU) and a faculty member in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences stated that two major earthquakes that took place one after the other in Turkey increased the size of the disaster in itself and said that earthquakes are painful events that affect generally the whole society.

Volkan, who spoke at the event organized by the CIU Faculty of Education on "Disasters and reactions observed following a trauma," stated that there are five different impacts of  disasters. 

Dr. Volkan explained that the first-degree impact of disasters result in disruption through physical injury and death, while the second-degree refers to the individuals who were exposed to trauma but then  were able to go to a safe area.

Stating that the third degree is accepted as the experiences of search and rescue teams going to the earthquake area or individuals who make psychological interventions, Volkan said, “Fourth degree refers to individuals who experience other types of losses. For example, they are individuals who have lost their neighborhood. An individual losing his/her neighborhood may mean losing his/her childhood, therefore, the losses should be examined in detail." 

Volkan stated that the fifth degree covers a more general area and said, “this implies how the individuals in a community are affected in a broader sense.” 

Volkan pointed out that not everyone is affected in the same way when disaster phases are considered, that there are stages in the progression of the disaster process and that different phases of the disaster are observed  generally within one year.

Volkan stated that the reactions seen in individuals were examined in four groups as physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral, and added that physical reactions may include body aches, sweating, trembling, muscle contraction and an increase in any stimulus response.

Stating that emotional reactions include denial, guilt and shock, Volkan pointed out that cognitive reactions may also include reactions like and especially in children impaired concentration, attention deficit and confusion.

Volkan pointed out that when it comes to behavioral reactions, frequent crying, increased frequency of arguments, increase in substance use and difficulty in communicating can be experienced.

To conclude, Volkan noted that the most basic humanitarian aid for individuals affected by a disaster is the social support that can be offered, and said, “We are all going through this process together, it is not easy for anyone. If someone wants to talk to you about the earthquake, be a listener, let him/her have some  space to express the pain, and don't be critical of him/her.”