Psychological symptoms during natural disasters

2. mars 2021

During earthquakes like those that are currently happening in Reykjanes and affecting many parts of the southwestern part of Iceland, it is not unusual to experience psychological symptoms. It is uncomfortable to be uncertain about your safety. Here are some things to consider about your well-being:

When you experience a disaster you may:

  • Feel physically and mentally drained
  • Have difficulty making decisions or staying focused on topics
  • Become easily frustrated on a frequent basis
  • Argue more with family and friends
  • Feel tired, sad, numb, lonely or worried
  • Experience changes in appetite or sleep patterns

Most of these reactions are temporary and will go away over time. Try to accept whatever reactions you may have. 

What you can do:

  • Try to control what is possible to control e.g. regarding prevention and preparation.
  • Pay attention to the security at home. Is there some furniture that you need to fix to a wall or take heavy items off shelves?

  • Eat healthy.
  • Get some rest.
  • Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and getting support is one of the most important things you can do.
  • Be patient with yourself and with those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need some time to put their feelings and thoughts in order.
  • Set priorities. Tackle tasks in small steps.
  • Try to stay positive.

Signs that you may need additional help:
Many people typically feel better after a few days. Others find that their stress does not go away as quickly as they would like and it influences their relationships with their family, friends and others. If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing some of the feelings and reactions listed below for some time (a few weeks), this may be a sign that you need to reach out for additional assistance:

  • Crying spells or bursts of anger
  • Difficulty eating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Losing interest in things
  • Increased physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling guilty, helpless or hopeless
  • Avoiding family and friends


Children experience traumatic events differently then adults. Experiencing a disaster can leave children feeling frightened, confused and insecure, particularly if this experience is not their first.
Because they can’t always talk about their worries, it sometimes comes out in a child’s behavior. Some may react immediately; others may be fine for weeks or months and then show troubling behavior. Knowing the signs that are common at different ages can help parents recognize problems and respond accordingly.

  • They may be more agitated or act out
  • They may be more clingy or cry often
  • They may need more attention or reassurance from adults they trust, it is important that adults try to show attitude, children monitor their reactions and conclude danger from it.

Here are a few tips for talking to children:

  • Provide children with opportunities to talk
  • Allow kids to discuss their fears and concerns
  • Ask what they want to know

  • Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers
  • Answer questions appropriate for their age and be honest

Remind them and us that this island has this great power, usually there is not much danger and we learn to react and stay safe together.

The 1717 Helpline and online chat is always open. You can always call or contact us if you are worried.