Research on psychiatric outcomes and interventions subsequent to disasters: a review of the literature

Psychiatry Res. 2002 Jul 31;110(3):201-17. doi: 10.1016/s0165-1781(02)00110-5.


Tragic events such as those of September 11, 2001, underscore the increasingly prominent role that psychiatrists play in aiding survivors, emergency workers, and broader communities to cope with disaster. The present review was undertaken to identify whether there exists a scientific basis for the practice of psychiatry in the aftermath of disasters. Most of the extensive literature over the past 30 years suggests that disasters have psychopathological consequences as well as medical and social ones. Pre-existing mood and anxiety disorders, although surprisingly not psychotic illness, appear to be risk factors for further psychopathology after a disaster. Thus, both acute psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions at disaster sites may prevent long-term sequelae, although their efficacy remains uncertain. Future controlled treatment trials are needed to determine the optimal treatment strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Disasters*
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy