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What are Normal Reactions to Stress?



woman looking stressed Most people who live through disasters will feel some stress. Even hearing about others in a traumatic or disaster situation can cause stress.

Stress can affect your mental and physical health. Reactions vary from person to person, sometimes happening right after the event or weeks or even months later.
The following are examples of normal reactions to stressful and traumatic events:

  • Physical Reactions: Exhaustion, headaches, chest pains, difficulties breathing, rapid heartbeat, sweating and gastrointestinal problems. Stress can also worsen existing medical conditions.


  • Emotional Reactions: Shock, fear, anxiety, anger, agitation, irritability. Some people may experience depression.


  • Cognitive Reactions: Confusion, forgetfulness, difficulties concentrating and making decisions, nightmares and flash backs.


  • Behavioral Reactions: Uncharacteristic behavior such as restlessness and argumentativeness, hyperactivity or withdrawal, change in eating and sleeping habits, crying, emotional outbursts, conflicts at home and at work, smoking, drugs or alcohol use and abuse.


  • Spiritual Reactions: Questioning basic beliefs and values, withdrawal from, or sudden turn towards, spiritual support.

Last Updated: January 16, 2012