Anxious After Tremors In Delhi? You Are Not Alone – Expert Explains Why

FIT reached out to experts to understand why events such as an earthquake can trigger anxiety or panic in people.

4 min read
Anxious After Tremors In Delhi? You Are Not Alone – Expert Explains Why
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On Tuesday, 21 March, strong tremors sent a wave of shock across many northern Indian cities after a 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit Afghanistan's Hindu Kush region.

The earthquake lasted several seconds leading people to rush out from their houses and gather in the streets. But even after the jolts subsided, people felt anxious stepping back inside their buildings, or going to sleep.

FIT reached out to Dr Gorav Gupta, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Tulasi Healthcare, Delhi, to understand why events such as an earthquake can trigger anxiety or panic in people and what can be done about it.


What is Earthquake Anxiety?

Dr Gupta explains that when a natural calamity, like an earthquake, happens, anxiety around it is common. This might be triggered due to two reasons:

  • You have past memories or trauma attached to a situation like this – loss of a loved one or of property – which could make your brain believe that a crisis is impending.

  • The other reason could be that media has exposed you to so much news about such tragedies that your brain is wired to trigger the fight or flight response in the very first instance of something happening.

The result from either of these situations is the same – feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and fear.

Dr Gupta shares that he has patients whose anxiety is triggered whenever there's rain, storm, or even thunder.

But, he adds, that if these feelings persist even after 6-12 weeks of the incident, the person should seek help because it might lead to either Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, or a phobia of the specific event occurring.

It's also possible that two types of anxiety responses kick in after an earthquake. The fight or flight response could make the person go into survival mode, wanting to be prepared in case this happens again. The other response might just be plain distress.

'Sleeplessness & Excessive Alertness': Symptoms of Earthquake Anxiety

Anxiety related to such events might manifest itself in the form of:

  • Sleeplessness

  • Excessive fear

  • Nervousness and alertness

  • Trouble focusing on your immediate surroundings

But if you've experienced a natural calamity before, even slight tremors can bring up Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) symptoms:

  • Agitation

  • Hyper-vigilance

  • Social isolation

A study done with survivors of the 2016 Aceh earthquake in Indonesia, titled Prevalence, Comorbidity and Predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety in Adolescents Following an Earthquake, published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, stated:

"It was found that PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptoms were prevalent mental disorders among Indonesian adolescents following the earthquake. These mental disorders were significantly associated with exposure to the earthquake."

What You Can Do

Events like an earthquake can trigger your body's fight or flight response. Some things you can do to resume control over your body are:

  • If you're not directly or severely affected, take a break from any calamity-related news so that you're not overwhelmed

  • Take deep breaths and get in touch with your surroundings

  • Watch something to relax and de-sensitise yourself from the incident

  • Talk the situation through with a loved one

And in case your body and mind are still not at ease, you can prepare yourself for any such future situations by doing a few simple things over time:

  • Participate in emergency preparedness drills

  • Keep flashlights, batteries, food/water, and other emergency items stored in a backpack

  • Maintain a predictable routine and healthy lifestyle for yourself to prevent being overstimulated by such events

  • Become a part of communities where you have a safe space to talk about your fears

A 2011 study, Managing Distress About Earthquakes From Afar, published in the American Psychological Association, said that in situations like these medication, along with cognitive-behavioural and interpersonal therapy, might help the person significantly.

However, a study published by the Istanbul Gelisim University, titled Attention to Anxiety After Earthquake, suggested that talking about the emotions one is feeling after an event like this and establishing that it is "normal" to go through those emotions can reduce the "risks of developing a long-term psychiatric disorder."

But if you continue feeling anxious even days after the incident, reach out to an expert for help.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Earthquake   Anxiety   Delhi NCR 

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