Disaster And Postdisaster Risk Factors

The severity of the exposure is by far the most important disaster risk factor for the development of post-disaster psychiatric morbidity [42, 75] (Table 10.1). One of the most poignant descriptions of survivors' coping with mass destruction comes from descriptions of the survivors of Hiroshima in which an American psychiatrist, Robert J. Lifton [24], recounted the survivors' horror and loss of feeling from witnessing mass death and dying and being unable to respond to calls for help, a phenomenon later referred to as psychic numbing. Indeed, this early description was the forerunner of the current nosology of PTSD. Severity can be measured by the magnitude of

Table 10.1 Risk factors for the development of mental disorders in people exposed to a disaster

Period

Risk factor

Pre-disaster

Female sex

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