Coping with Depression Through Natural Disasters

April 5, 2023 Rachel Craft

For depression sufferers, it can feel like our minds filter out positive emotions and turn our thoughts into a vortex of negativity. Seeing the pain and suffering caused by natural disasters often exacerbates depression.

Natural Disasters Can Trigger Depression

As someone who is both emotionally sensitive and prone to depression, I’ve increasingly struggled to come to terms with the darkness of the world around me. Threats like climate change, nuclear war, gun violence, and a global pandemic often weigh on my mind. When I’m already struggling with bleak thoughts, these looming threats can make it even harder to get out of bed and be productive. Sometimes I think, with the state of the world around me, “What’s the point?”

This struggle reached a new level when, just over a year ago, the most devastating wildfire in Colorado’s history tore through my community. Any source of stress can trigger depression—and this was easily the most stressful day of my life. In an instant, what seemed like a normal day devolved into chaos. Afterward, when the adrenaline wore off, there came the overwhelming grief of returning to my neighborhood to see much of it reduced to ashes.

Natural Disasters Fuel Existential Depression

I was fortunate; my house and street survived the Marshall Fire. But over the next year, I was haunted by nightmares, memories, and bleak “what-if” scenarios. It intensifies every time I walk my dogs past the rubble where my neighbors used to live and when I read about other natural disasters, like last year’s Hurricane Ian or the recent Arkansas tornadoes.

Existential depression often stems from asking big, unanswerable questions about our purpose in life and place in the world. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation, and the sense that we’re spending our days on a metaphorical hamster wheel. Seeing death and suffering caused by forces beyond our control exacerbates this feeling. And because these forces are just that—beyond our control—coping with existential depression can feel like a no-win scenario.

Coping with Existential Depression

I’ve found that the first step to coping is accepting these feelings. Understand that you can’t change the world around you, and you don’t have to try. Instead of fixating on bleak news stories, look for silver linings—no matter how small. This includes when you have depression and are looking at natural disasters.

In the year since the Marshall Fire, I’ve watched the slow process of clearing the rubble and building new homes in decimated neighborhoods. I’ve seen the grass grow back greener than ever before from the blackened ground. When I feel overwhelmed by existential threats like natural disasters, I try to focus on these little things and make room for positivity in my mind.

APA Reference
Craft, R. (2023, April 5). Coping with Depression Through Natural Disasters, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Rachel Craft

Find Rachel on Twitter and her personal blog.

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