Watching Natural Disasters on TV: Bad for Your Health?

Natural disasters can trigger stress and anxiety for arm-chair trauma drama junkies.

The year has brought more than its share of natural disasters: a catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, a colossal oil spill in the Gulf, a tsunami and threat of tsunamis, flash floods and most recently, a near-tragic mining accident in Chile. Through all these disasters, some people are glued to television, radio, the newspaper or the Internet.

These trauma drama junkies just can't pull themselves away.

"These tragedies may exacerbate feelings among individuals with a history of trauma, depression or anxiety; in other individuals, it may generate new feelings of stress," said Rich Paul, vice president of Health and Performance Solutions at ValueOptions®, the nation's largest independent behavioral health and wellness company.

So for all you disaster junkies, keep in mind these tips for coping with trauma drama:

  1. Balance your intake of information on the disaster. Listen to the news to find out new information and keep apprised of the situation. The bottom line: educate but do not inundate yourself with the news.
  2. Don't take rumors as fact. Trace the source of the information. Is it credible? Take the time to double check.
  3. Create a network of people – friends, relatives or neighbors – with whom you can talk. You are not alone in trying to find ways to cope.
  4. Take stock of life. Natural disasters remind us that there are many parts of our life over which we have no control. Lives and personal property can be destroyed or damaged within moments.
  5. Help children cope with the disaster. Encourage children to ask questions. Help them to understand that the disaster will pass.
  6. Reach out to help other people who may have suffered losses. Volunteer to help those in need.  That will help keep a perspective of what you still have in your life.

Strong feelings – including those of anxiousness, anger and depression – are normal during a natural disaster. Should emotions become overwhelming, contact a medical professional.


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