LONDON, March 17 (UPI) -- Psychological trauma for some earthquake and tsunami survivors will be felt for some time to come, a psychology expert in Britain says.
Dr. Magda Osman, psychology lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, said as soon as there is a disaster, there is often a rapid increase of mental health problems among people who have been affected, because natural disasters threaten a person's sense of control in the world.
"Our sense of control is like a mental engine, it's like an adaptive driving force that helps us stay motivated. When bad, unpredictable events happen we don't feel we have any effect over anything and this is when we start to lose self esteem," Osman says in a statement.
People who live in areas prone to earthquakes, such as in Japan, often rehearse what to do in a disaster, which helps them increase their sense of control over the situation. This is can be a powerful way to create resilience, Osman says.
In lab experiments, Osman shows that even when a situation is unpredictable and seems to be spiraling out of control, if people believe they have control over the situation, they tend to be better able to exert control.
"Setting goals is the best way of helping to exert or take back control," Osman says. "Goals act like a yardstick to compare future events against."