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Crises (singular:crisis) may occur on a personal or societal level. It may be a traumatic or stressful change in a person's life, or an unstable and dangerous social situation, in political, social, economic, military affairs, or a large-scale environmental event, especially one involving an impending abrupt change. More loosely, it is a term meaning 'a testing time' or 'emergency event'.

To be human is to experience crisis. Some will be caused by societal tragedies such as the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech. Some will be caused by natural disaster such as earthquake, hurricane or some other large magnitude act of nature beyond our control. And some will be caused by more personal experiences such as illness, death, or another difficult experience that comes to know on our door. Everyone will react differently to the same crisis. The emotional experience is as individual as the other characteristics of the person. Even more confusing to ourselves and to those around us is the changing nature of crisis response. Psychologically we are equipped to deal with various aspects of a crisis at different times and our reactions can run the gamut over time. Some of the appropriate reactions to a crisis are the following:

Fear -- It is very common to be afraid when things are happening to us that are completely outside of our normal experience. Our safety has been shattered and our future is unsure. This insecurity can rock our foundation and cause fear.

Stress -- We all know that there is good stress and bad stress. Good stress may come from a challenging project with a tight deadline at work or the case of the jitters that may accompany us down the aisle on our wedding day. But bad stress comes from traumatic events that make us feel unsafe. Bad stress can contribute to many emotional and physical problems. There are some who would say that stress creates all disharmony within our bodies and creates all illness as well. Whether we choose to believe that stress is that powerful for those of us who have experience it we can say it can be very unpleasant.

Guilt, Shock, and Disbelief -- We may be absolutely floored by some particularly bad news. It may take some time to process the actual meaning of some crisis situations and their long term affects. Imaging finding out that your spouse has been having an affair. In most cases we will be shocked. We may not want to accept the facts and choose to disbelieve for some period of time. Guilt comes into play when we blame ourselves as the cause of the crisis event. We also feel guilty that we are not experiencing the crisis personally but supporting someone who is close to us through their crisis. We are guilty that a friend's spouse has cancer but our spouse if fine. We are guilty that our neighbor's child is addicted to crack but our child is fine.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- This is a very common term in today's world of crisis management. Many situations that we experience today bring back painful memories from past events in our lives. Or, our emotional and physical state was solid while we were dealing with a crisis but once that situation improved our emotional and physical state collapsed. It often takes some time to connect with the actual damage that a crisis situation can do to use.

Anger -- Crisis bring out anger in people because we need to express our range and upset over what is happening. Anger comes in many shapes and form. As an emotion, anger is a good thing, when expressed appropriately. However, when we are in the midst of a crisis our anger often comes out in self-destructive ways. We may take our anger out on loved ones because they are easy targets. We may take our anger out on our children because they are weaker than we are.

As in the grieving process, the crisis response process has definite phases. Not everyone goes through each phase and not everyone goes though the phases in order. Buy be aware than the phases are common and you or your loved ones may experience them.

Shock -- At first we are in shock and disbelief that something of a crisis nature can be happening to us. This shock can allow us to be in a state of denial for quite some time until we are ready to deal with the crisis.

Denial - How many times have you said, "This can't be happening to me." Or, when the doctor has given you bad news about a loved one haven't you heard someone say, "This cannot be correct. Let's get another opinion."

Overwhelming thoughts or emotions -- As we get over the shock and denial of the situation we are ready to flood our mind with overwhelming thoughts. We may have day dreams, fantasies, depression, shame, or anxiety. We often cannot control the repetitive nature of these thoughts.

Acceptance -- After time we often become more accepting of what is happening and we are ready to work through the problems and all of their ramification and impacts on our lives.

Conclusion -- One way or another each crisis does have a conclusion. After we deal with the other stages we are left with a desire to see things to their conclusion. Even if we are dying we may eventually accept this and move towards a peaceful exit from this world.

If we happen to be in the support role there are some very definite actions we can take to help our loved one move through a crisis. Here are some tips to be excellent supporters.

Communication is most important -- Here is when all of your listening skills will be called into play. Your loved one needs to know that you will be there to listen to them and to react appropriately. This is not the time for judgments and criticism. This is the time for listening, comforting and supportive dialogue.

You are not alone -- It is important for the person going through the crisis to understand that they are not the first person to go through this situation. It's helpful to tell your loved one to take things slowly; one day at a time. It is also important to see if any support groups exist for the crisis being experienced.

Share Feelings -- Let your friend talk and express their emotions. Do not be afraid of emotions and back away. Your friend will sense your discomfort and may stop talking to you.

Take steps -- Find some definitive steps that can be taken to relieve some of the stress related crisis. Often by taking positive action some of the panic or pain can be relieved, even if only for awhile.

Pray -- if you and your loved one are religious the power of prayer is mighty. Use your faith to get though.

Poverty-related crisis

Main article: Poverty. See also Charitable organization

Poverty is a condition in which a person or community is deprived of, and or lacks the essentials for a minimum standard of well-being and life. These essentials may be material resources such as food, safe drinking water, and shelter, or they may be social resources such as access to information, education, health care, social status, political power,[1] or the opportunity to develop meaningful connections with other people in society.[2] For the individual it is a personal crisis. When poverty afflicts large numbers of people it becomes a social crisis.

Poverty-related crises include:

Malnutrition is the lack of sufficient nutrients to maintain healthy bodily functions and is typically associated with poverty, especially extreme poverty in economically developing countries. It is a common cause of reduced intelligence in parts of the world affected by famine. [3]

A famine is a social and economic crisis that is commonly accompanied by widespread malnutrition, starvation, epidemic and increased mortality.

Malnutrition crisis intervention

Forms of malnutrition intervention and prevention on the social level include:

  • In developed countries
    • Food bank
    • Soup kitchen

Unemployment and Underemployment

Main article: Unemployment

Unemployment is the condition of willing workers lacking jobs or "gainful employment".

In the absence of a job when a person needs one, it can be difficult to meet financial obligations such as purchasing food to feed oneself and one's family, and paying one's bills; failure to make mortgage payments or to pay rent may lead to homelessness through foreclosure or eviction. Being unemployed, and the financial difficulties and loss of health insurance benefits that come with it, may cause malnutrition and illness, and are major sources of mental stress and loss of self-esteem which may lead to depression, which may have a further negative impact on health.

Lacking a job often means lacking social contact with fellow employees, a purpose for many hours of the day, lack of self-esteem, mental stress and illness, and of course, the inability to pay bills and to purchase both necessities and luxuries. The latter is especially serious for those with family obligations, debts, and/or medical costs, where the availability of health insurance is often linked to holding a job.

Unemployment intervention
Main article: Aiding the unemployed

Forms of unemployment intervention and management include:

Economic crisis

Main articles: Economic crisis and Financial crisis

An economic crisis is a sharp transition to a recession. See for example 1994 economic crisis in Mexico, Argentine economic crisis (1999-2002), South American economic crisis of 2002, Economic crisis of Cameroon.

A financial crisis may be a banking crisis or currency crisis.

Environmental crisis

Crises pertaining to the environment include:

Environmental disaster

Main article: Environmental disaster

An environmental disaster is a disaster that is due to human activity and should not be confused with natural disasters (see below). In this case, the impact of humans' alteration of the ecosystem has led to widespread and/or long-lasting consequences. It can include the deaths of animals (including humans) and plant systems, or severe disruption of human life, possibly requiring migration.

Natural disaster

Main article: Natural disaster

A natural disaster is the consequence of a natural hazard (e.g. volcanic eruption, earthquake, landslide) which moves from potential in to an active phase, and as a result affects human activities. Human vulnerability, exacerbated by the lack of planning or lack of appropriate emergency management, leads to financial, structural, and human losses. The resulting loss depends on the capacity of the population to support or resist the disaster, their resilience.[4] This understanding is concentrated in the formulation: "disasters occur when hazards meet vulnerability".[5] A natural hazard will hence never result in a natural disaster in areas without vulnerability, e.g. strong earthquakes in uninhabited areas.

For lists of natural disasters, see the list of disasters or the list of deadliest natural disasters.

International crisis

Main article: International crisis

For information about crises in the field of study in international relations, see crisis management and international crisis. In this context, a crisis can be loosely defined as a situation where there is a perception of threat, heightened anxiety, expectation of possible violence and the belief that any actions will have far-reaching consequences (Lebow, 7-10).

See also


  1. Journal of Poverty
  2. A Glossary for Social Epidemiology Nancy Krieger, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health
  3. "Malnutrition Is Cheating Its Survivors, and Africa’s Future" article in the New York Times by Michael Wines, December 28, 2006
  4. G. Bankoff, G. Frerks, D. Hilhorst (eds.) (2003). Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People.
  5. B. Wisner, P. Blaikie, T. Cannon, and I. Davis (2004). At Risk - Natural hazards, people's vulnerability and disasters, Wiltshire: Routledge.

Further reading

  1. Borodzicz, E. P. 2005 'Risk, Crisis and Security Management' John Wileys, Chichester. ISBN 0-470-86704-3
  2. Lebow, RN, Between Peace and War: The Nature of International Crisis: 1981. The Rancho Bernardo Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-2311-0.

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