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Psychology, Personal

  • By: David E. Alexander
  • In: Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief
  • Edited by: K. Bradley Penuel & Matt Statler
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Policy (general)

A person confronted by an extraordinary event such as a disaster will receive perceptual stimuli from his or her social surroundings and environment. These will be decodified on the basis of models of reality gained from the person's previous experience and interpreted as the basis for decisions about future attitudes and actions. A healthy individual has a personality that is robust and flexible enough to give good support and maintain equilibrium under the stress. Such people are by far the majority of those affected by disasters, which do not cause large increases in mental illness, although they do result in considerable psychological harm and mental suffering.

The worst effects occur to people who suffer from psychological feedback mechanisms, of which there are two kinds. First, someone ...

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