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Health & Science

Anxieties Endure When Houston Sees Heavy Rains

People affected by disasters can experience related anxieties for years


More than a year out from Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s mental health care providers continue to see spikes in anxiety among residents when the area receives heavy rains.


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As a potential tropical storm threatened South Texas last week and Hurricane Florence approached the coast of the eastern United States, those anxieties spiked again.

Research has shown most disaster-related mental health cases do not become apparent until six months following an event, according to Alejandra Posada, Chief Program Officer with Mental Health America Houston. However, when symptoms do manifest they can last for years.

“They go on for as long as two to three or in some cases five years,” Posada said, “because [the anxieties] are not isolated from people’s other ongoing stressors.”

Asking about Harvey has become routine for many counselors in the Houston area. Shelly Simpson is a counselor at the Menninger Clinic.

"If I know someone experienced Harvey and its a stormy week, I'll find myself asking, you know, how are you dealing with this?"

Simpson said many people who have experienced anxieties since the storm had not previously had a mental health diagnosis, and often do not have a label for their feelings.

"If getting on Google and looking at stuff about Florence and looking at everyone's Twitter and Instagram photos is going to make me feel more anxious, that is a sign to turn my phone off,” Simpson said. “I don't actually need that much information considering I live down here in Houston, and that's something you learn through self-care practices."

Simpson said she reminds people to remember the sense of community and resiliency that came out of Harvey, as she's noticed framing the storm that way has been therapeutic.

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