to deprive them, of someone or something representing
the fulfillment of their basic human needs. In other
words, these people will not be experiencing a content,
sound life-style with the basic human needs fulfilled.
For these people, an important part of life is missing,
such as a sense of identity and belonging to society, a
sense of physical and psychological well-being, or a
supportive network of family and friends. In dramatic
encounters, people may be facing a period of impact or
an unwelcome truth, a period of recoil where they isolate
themselves, and a period of posttraumatic self-denial or
remorse. Although these crisis states are not inevitable
in every emergency, they are common occurrences
whenever people are facing traumatic or devastating
Recognizing a Psychological Emergency
You may not always be able to immediately identify
to recognize some common signs and characteristics of
a psychological emergency, such as those listed in figure
A crisis may occur at any time. A crisis may erupt
from any event, such as an environmental or material
condition, a personal or physical event, an interpersonal
or social situation, during any life cycle passage
associated with the normal facets of human growth, and
during life cycle transitions that signal a change in social
The key to recognizing and understanding a
psychological emergency resulting from a crisis is
the term emotional. People have feelings about the
things that happen to them in life. These feelings
can incapacitate them. Most people prefer to be in
charge of their own lives and hate to admit they
a state of serious emotional upset, but you should be able
SIGNS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES
One or more of the characteristics may signify a psychological emergency. These characteristics may be
accompanied by bodily signs and symptoms such as sleeplessness, loss of appetite, loss of sex drive, constipation,
crying, tension, and irritability.
Inappropriate anger directed at an inappropriate source usually brief
Not related to any specific person, place, or situation.
Radical changes in life-style, values, relationships, and so forth.
May be preoccupied with fears or imaginary attacks.
May range from crying to inability to function to threatened suicide.
Often has feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, unworthiness, and
May be afraid of a person or persons, activity, or place.
LOSS OF CONTACT WITH REALITY
Has trouble distinguishing or identifying smells, sounds, and sights
in the real world from those in an imaginary world.
Unrealistically optimistic, unwarranted risks, and poor judgment.
Loses interest in people or things that were previously considered
Figure 2-9.Signs and characteristics of psychological emergencies.