Sabah quake survivors at risk of stress disorders

Sabah quake survivors at risk of stress disorders

People who witnessed the traumatic aftermath of the Sabah earthquake are at risk of developing Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr Alvin Liew, director and consultant at Adult & Child Psychological Wellness Clinic explains that if symptoms of ASD persist for more than a month, doctors will be on watch for PTSD.


ASD describes a condition that arises in response to a terrifying or distressing event from three days to a month after.

In general, individuals with this condition experience symptoms ranging from continued re-experiencing of the event through flashbacks, dreams and thoughts, and anxiety, emotional numbing or detachment to avoidance of any stimulation that reminds them of the event.

If these symptoms persist beyond a month, PTSD is diagnosed.

Both conditions share similar symptoms.

Compared to ASD, PTSD is longer term, generally more impairing and carries a higher risk of developing maladaptive coping (a technique that will reduce symptoms while maintaining and strengthening the disorder).

Dr Marcus Tan, consultant psychiatrist at Nobel Psychological Wellness Clinic, says that survivors may also demonstrate increased preoccupation about physical safety and death.

Some become fervently obsessed and worrisome about their own safety, as well as that of those close to them.

To help in their psychological recovery, Dr Liew says survivors must be reassured of the safe environment they are now in.

He also advises loved ones remind survivors that "they can take their own time to recover and let them know that help is available to them whenever needed".

What will help the child recover during this time?

Dr Tan says maintaining the child's regular routine is imperative.

It will be pertinent to note that changes in routine can be disruptive to the child and result in more distress.

Parents should also be aware of signs of unhealthy coping and consider consulting with a mental health professional early

This article was first published on June 14, 2015.
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