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High anxiety: A hurricane's mental toll

Hurricane Winds
As hurricane-force winds blow closer to U.S. shores, the anticipation of disaster can stress out residents living in threatened areas  
HELP AT HOME:
Are you feeling stressed?
Try these tips to relax.
VIDEO
CNN's Holly Firfer reports on the way people deal with stressful weather situation (September 14)
Windows Media 28K 80K

September 14, 1999
Web posted at: 4:05 p.m. EDT (2005 GMT)

(CNN) -- Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, do more than physical damage to those whose lives and property lie in a storm's destructive path. The stress and anxiety that comes with awaiting the unknown can take an emotional and physical toll. But there are some ways to manage "hurricane stress" while boarding up windows.

Psychologist Eugia Littlejohn explained that when an individual has absolutely no personal control over a situation, they can experience the most damaging type of stress.

"We have rushes of adrenalin, we have a heightened sensitivity, a hypersensitivity to whatever the stressor is and if that heightened sense of awareness isn't quelled in a reasonable sense of time, we can see decreases in immune system, feelings of getting sick, decrease in health in general," Littlejohn said.

Experts say different personality types react differently to the stress, but most start to experience anxiety from the moment they realize they are in the path of danger.

Medical Correspondent Holly Firfer talked with Littlejohn about specific strategies for coping with stress in the face of a natural disaster.



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