The Psychological Cycle of Disaster Response


I never thought I would be reading about survival and on how to prepare for emergencies but these are some odd times we live in. I’m not talking about the pandemic and the lockdowns. That’s something most people have been exposed to in the news. I’m talking about the geopolitical crisis we are currently living between east and west, a battle between human freedom and a new bolshevik system on the rise and under disguise.

If you are not aware of it and you want to know more about what is going on in the world right now, I invite you to turn off the television, do some research, and consider the following books:

Let’s get to the topic of this blog post though. When thinking about survival, there are four essential principles we must take care of. These include protection, location, water, and food. I think these are the basics of physical survival. There are, however, other important aspects that can affect your chance of overcoming a disaster or emergency. Your psychological experience is one of them.

According to Colin Towell, author of The Survival Handbook, we go through four psychological stages when responding to a disaster or emergency. These include the following different periods: pre-impact, impact, recoil, and post-trauma, which I will briefly describe next.


Pre-Impact Period
In this stage, there is danger but some people may not recognise it while others can see it clearly. Those who can’t see that danger exists will usually be in denial and refuse to accept it until the danger becomes too obvious to everyone, and action is taken.


Impact Period
In this stage, people know there is a life-threatening situation and most of them will be freezed and unable to react rationally. Contrary to expected, fewer people tend to express extreme behaviours such as screaming or having a melt-down. A minority may also remain calm and fully aware.


Recoil Period
In this stage, people begin to gradually return to their normal reasoning capacity. This is a period in which people become more aware and in greater control of their emotions.


Post-Trauma Period
This stage occurs whenever the Recoil Period is not fully successful. If people don’t manage to regain their reasoning and emotional management abilities, then they have an increased chance of developing post-traumatic stress (PTSD) which often is characterised by negative psychological experiences such as guilt, depression, anxiety, aimlessness, and bereavement.


I’m personally somewhere between the impact and the recoil stages. There are days in which I feel freezed by everything I know and feel, while in others I try to remain calm and have my act together. Some days I feel trapped, other days I plant seeds of hope. Anxiety and depression may go hand in hand for half a day, and more recently I started overeating again as a way to cope with intense feelings of uncertainty and lack of control. I think it’s important to realise we are only human and it’s ok to feel the way we feel – whatever that is. If the fall of the world as we knew it is upon us, it’s only human to feel like a crazy bouncing ball. In a future post, I will address the different coping strategies people usually adopt when facing a crisis.

3 thoughts on “The Psychological Cycle of Disaster Response

  1. I’ve also been thinking about this! It comes and goes but every time I engage with the news it feels like chaos all around and the only way to prepare meant embracing some paranoia and nth degree thinking:) thanks for the tips and the recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

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