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Survivor Guilt

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

Traumatic events such as wars, natural disasters, and economic meltdowns lead to much suffering for victims and their families. However, those who survive such events can develop additional mental anguish, termed survivor guilt, if they believe they should not have survived or that they did something wrong by making it through the traumatic event. This is a key concept to consider in disaster relief, as survivor guilt is often an a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and should be treated to allow the survivor to function normally and release the guilt they feel about the event.

Guilt is a common response following traumatic events that result in loss, injury, or death. A person may even fell guilty without being consciously aware of it. Guilt assumes ...

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