22 Psychological & Physical Effects of a Long Term Disaster Situation? Are You Ready? (How to Prepare for a Disaster)
In a recent article, I wrote about 15 Catastrophic Events You Must Prepare For because the likelihood of one or more of them happening again is about 100%. One of my goals is to raise awareness of various disasters, human nature, and potential events in order to encourage and inspire people to take measures, even small ones, to be more prepared.
There’s a lot of psychology involved with surviving a disaster as well as the more obvious physical effects people will need to deal with. Strength of mind will be a necessity to survive, as will preparedness for general health. (Here’s a list of eight considerations every prepper should take into account.)
That’s why self-reliance in all forms is the main thread of this blog, even though I discuss many topics! Herbal medicine, growing your own food, cooking from scratch, diy cleaning and body products, including making your own soap….the list is long, but fun to learn.
I’ve been reading prepper and survival books, both fiction and nonfiction, for nearly seven years now. One thing they all have in common (besides the practical advice) is what will happen with humans’ physical and mental stability and how people are likely to deteriorate.
If you are aware of these potentialities, you will be better able to prepare for a disaster.
As homesteaders, we already have more of a self-reliance mindset than most others. We are probably more able to survive in a terrible disaster situation than those who have few or no skills or supplies set aside. That’s why I so recommend starting your homestead journey NOW, no matter where you live!
Regardless of the level of preparedness, though, it’s likely (guaranteed) that people will be dealing with multiple effects, possibly for a very long period of time.
Without further ado, here is the short list:
22 Psychological & Physical Effects of a Long-Term Disaster Situation and How to Deal With Them
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Some of the items on this list came from years of reading disaster novels, such as One Second After by William Fortschen or the more recent Catalyst series by JK Franks. Other survival books by A. American or Mark Goodwin are also excellent.
Men tend to love these books more than most women (these are definitely not fun, easy chick-lit reads), but I admit: I am addicted. There’s just something primal about rooting for the human condition, right?
Others of the items either came from or match up with difficulties mentioned in the novels I’ve read, and come from the book, A Failure of Civility by Mike Garand and Jack Lawson. Unfortunately, it’s out of print now and is very expensive on Amazon, as there are limited used copies.
Here is a list of things you can expect to have to deal with in a long-term disaster situation so you can start thinking now about how to be prepared for them:
1) Using a Bucket as a Toilet
Without electricity and running water, finding places for our bodily wastes will be a challenge. There are now actually seats you can buy to fit on a five gallon bucket, in case the sewage system fails. Other alternatives will be to dig latrines far away from sources of water.
Have you ever seen an outhouse? I think those might just be the new level of luxury in the event of a grid down situation.
2) Having No Toilet Paper
I know people laugh about “family cloths,” but really, you might want to consider alternatives to toilet paper. What will you use when the paper runs out? I know folks can get pretty creative, but you don’t want to be in a situation where all you have is your left hand. Just saying.
3) Sleep Deprivation
When the grid goes down, so does society. It’s just a fact of human nature: some of us aren’t nice people. Defense will need to become a “thing” if you are going to survive. This may entail some long nights or taking watch shifts if you are lucky enough to be in a good group working together.
Being deprived of sleep causes disorientation, lack of focus and concentration, and this causes poor judgment and decision making. Being in this state makes staying alive even more difficult.
4) Skin Boils
Skin boils are infections that usually start in an oil gland or hair follicle. They rapidly become large, white or green pus-filled sacs. These are common when there is a lack of hygiene, malnutrition, and stress. It’s very likely these will become commonplace in a long term disaster.
It’s probably a good idea to have some healing black drawing salve on hand, just in case of infection.
5) Excessive Stress from the “Flight or Fight” Response
When your body is constantly on the alert for threats, your flight or fight response is activated. Living in this state creates a situation where your immune system is affected, cortisol levels remain unnaturally high, and relaxation is impossible.
6) PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome)
PTSD causes abnormal thought patterns and varies in severity depending on the person, the traumatic event suffered, etc. But the bottom line is that it’s common for the mind to be completely altered by PTSD with depression being common.
7) Being Constantly & Severely Stinky
There was a time in the human existence when people dumped raw sewage in the streets and did not shower or bathe. Yep. Just a few hundred years ago during the Dark Ages, this was a common way to live.
Well, in a long term disaster, it’s likely you will have to deal with some level of stinkiness. This is why people (even men of nobility) carried around lavender sprigs during the 16th through 18th centuries.
Water may be so precious it will only be used for drinking. So…get used to stench.
8) Disintegrating Clothing
It may seem counterintuitive, but washing your clothes less often will actually lead them to break down faster, getting holes and becoming threadbare. This is because dirt embedded in the fibers have a sandpaper effect on the cloth.
9) Female Hygiene Issues
Women, especially, will have a difficult time of things. We are all used to our usual mode of feminine hygiene and to go back in time to how women dealt with this time of month in the olden days will be disconcerting for many.
It’s likely the natural death rate for women will increase substantially due to decreased levels of hygiene, infections of the birth canal and uterus, and problems during pregnancies.
10) Unexpected Pregnancies
Without ongoing birth control, the women who do survive will have a higher potential to become pregnant. Even older women, who are grandmothers, may experience this. Even if people choose to abstain from intercourse, pregnancies will be inevitable.
11) Cooking Outside Over Fire
Cooking over a fire is a great skill to learn. But you have to think about how long this will last? Your propane is likely to be gone in a couple of weeks with constant use, and you’ll have to turn to using firewood. This means burning your furniture in most cases.
Plastic will truly be a thing of the past because plastics will just not work with this style of cooking. If you have a set of cast iron cookware, treasure it!
12) We Will Become a Hairy Species
No more metro dudes. No more waxing or shaving for baby smooth areas on anyone. Women will quickly have as much or more hair than the men, and most men will have that full beard a few fashionistas these days aspire to.
13) Minor Illnesses & Wounds Will Be Potentially Lethal
Because of lowered immune responses due to lack of clean water, enough food or sleep, and stress, what is now a minor wound could become a deathly infection. It’s a good idea to learn how to use medicinal herbs and plants in the environment to help fight infections and speed wound healing.
Get used to making effective home remedies for illnesses now, and you’ll be in much better shape should SHTF. You can find out what the best herbs for pain relief are right here.
And you can find out how to make your own natural Quikclot to stop bleeding fast right here.
14) People on Medications Will Die
Once you start down the path of allopathic medications to deal with symptoms and illnesses instead of bringing your body back into a state of balance and health using lifestyle and natural methods, you may be one of the unfortunate ones who need those pills every single day.
In a disaster situation, these are not going to last long. It’s a sad fact that those who rely on pharmaceuticals or OTC medications to get by will likely pay the price in a long term disaster situation.
What can you do now to be prepared? You want to start giving this some consideration.
Learning about herbal medicine is one way to build a set of skills for taking care of yourself and family.
15) Lots of Walking
This is probably one of the few benefits of a disaster. If the grid goes down or the economy collapses and there is no gasoline, we will be walking wherever we want to go. Horses as transportation may help some folks, but most of us will be using our legs.
16) Little or No Trust
Many people, especially those living in urban and suburban areas, never see their neighbors. They drive directly into their garages, shut the door, and enter the house from the inside. Then they proceed to play video games…inside.
It’s a sad fact that people are not getting to know their neighbors like they did just a couple of decades ago. I’ve watched this deterioration of neighborhood camaraderie with my own eyes in neighborhoods in Las Vegas, Nevada, my home of 49 years.
In a disaster situation, it will become evident that some people are not helpful and will be, in fact, out for themselves. Trust among humans will rapidly break down within less than a week, I predict.
It’s a good idea to form loose groups of like minded people NOW and have a plan to deal together with a disaster. Together, a group may have a chance to survive to an extent. Isolated individuals will most likely die quickly.
17) You’ll Be Going Cold Turkey from Your Addictions of Choice
Addicted to that morning latte’? Need the sugar rush every afternoon? How about that Big Gulp you need to buy every day? Forget cigarettes, decent alcohol, or those pills you like to take to calm you down.
Until everyone’s body cleanses and detoxifies, going cold turkey from our bad habits is going to be a difficult thing to deal with.
People who are on drugs for certain mental health issues will likely not be able to get them in some of the disaster situations. Since the 1960’s, our mental health institutions have declined, and most of the people who need medications for very severe aggression and disorders take medications to help them cope.
In fact, “an estimated 1% of the population have severe psychiatric problems and will be amongst us without their drugs to curtail their disorders.” If you have 10,000 people in your town, you may experience around 100 people with varying degrees of lunacy appearing. (Garand & Lawson)
19) Increased Death Rate and Suicides
We are all soft these days. Even the toughest of us live far better than we will during a long term disaster. There are those who will simply give up on life. This subconscious giving up will cause an increased chance of death from minor infections.
Suicide rates will also increase as people realize their “new normal.”
20) Marijuana vs. Alcohol
A great majority of adults imbibe in alcohol, marijuana, or both these days. I predict that marijuana will become even more common than it is since it grows like a “weed.” Alcohol will still be around, but once it runs out it will require a skillful person to create it.
Many will feel the need to numb themselves against their experiences in a long term tragedy.
21) Potential Cannibalism
When people are starving, it’s a fact that they may just turn to the recently dead as a food source. Hunger can drive even the most level-headed and compassionate people to do things they would never dream of doing in normal times.
We’ve all heard of the Donner Party, right? It’s not so far-fetched a scenario to think that my happen in the more tragic of circumstances.
22) People Will Turn to God
During good times, people as a general rule, tend to forget the higher power of God. Those who are not in the habit of daily prayer will pray again in response to the devastations of their life. It’s a good idea to turn to your higher power and build that solid relationship God wants you to have with Him now. Just a thought.
So What Can You Do Now?
1) Find Like Minded People for Support
People who have a group for protection and working together for survival will do better than those who operate alone. It’s a good idea to find families who think similarly and who believe in sharing skills and resources to group together.
If you’re in a neighborhood, start talking with your neighbors. Get the conversations started. You will be able to tell who you may be able to trust.
In fact, when we lived off-grid in our little village before moving to Idaho, there was a wonderful group of neighbors who met occasionally to discuss things of this nature.
2) Have a Plan for Food & Water
Get your food and water storage plan together. Even if it’s just for a couple of weeks, it may buy you some time to get more prepared.
Disease caused by bacteria in water can kill more people than an army can unless it’s treated correctly. Learn to filter, boil, and treat your water with chlorine or purifying tablets. Have these items included in your store-room.
3) What is Your Plan for Your Waste?
Knowing how you will dispose properly of waste and having an action plan is vital. You do not want to dispose of waste close to living areas or water sources.
4) Protect Your Morale
Staying positive in this kind of situation will be difficult, but it’s necessary for survival. Plan on stocking up on some pleasure items like coffee so things can feel a little “normal.” Keep games, cards, and toys available for children and adults as well.
5) Remember, You Have a Right to Defend
The negative media propaganda around gun rights has caused a strange hysteria around violence and guns in our country. I think people have a more dangerous mindset around their right to defend and gun ownership than ever before because most of us experience a level of doubt about “hurting” others.
I’m not advocating violence, not at all.
But if your family is in danger, you have the right to defend. We teach children from a young age not to be violent or to hurt others, but the reality is that the balanced and “typical” of us really do try to be decent and humane. It’s those who do not have this same sense of morality you need to worry about.
There are those out there who would hurt others, even if it’s not necessary. I read in the book, The Sociopath Next Door, that around 4% of the population is a sociopath to one extent or other. That’s 4 out of 100 people, or 1 out of every 25!
This is a good idea to keep in mind if you are deciding whether or not you have the right to protect your child by using deadly force against those who would kill and steal from you.
It’s likely that law enforcement will no longer be around after a certain amount of time during this kind of long term catastrophic event.
Keep in mind that humans are animals. And the animal kingdom naturally sorts out the strong from the weak. It’s a law of nature.
There is a political correctness in our modern society that is doing nobody any favors. Misters Garand and Lawson refer to it as a “Tyranny of Politeness.”
This tyranny keeps people’s hands tied, metaphorically speaking, as they don’t want to be the “bad guy,” or say or do something to offend another. Just remember: You have the right to plan. You have the right to defend yourself from mortal danger.
Final Thoughts on the Psychological & Physical Effects of a Long Term Disaster Situation
Wow. I’m feeling a little depressed now. I sure didn’t mean to make anyone feel bad, even myself. ;-)
But it’s better to plan ahead than be sorry later, isn’t it?
The best way you can look at these potentialities is what will you do about them? How can you be ready? What can you do now to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit to put yourself and your family in the best possible situation?
Just some food for thought.
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There are others in the homestead/survival/prepper areas on the blog too! I hope you’ll go browse around and get your self-reliance skills going on!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
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