A recent social media post regarding that strange dizzy, rocky feeling after an earthquake saw hundreds of comments from other people also experiencing the same strange symptoms.
Following a large earthquake and aftershocks, many people report feeling “phantom earthquakes” when in fact no earthquake is actually taking place. This condition, known as “earthquake sickness” is thought to be related to motion sickness, and usually goes away as seismic activity tails off.
This syndrome can affect up to 30% of those in the earthquake zone. It became so common in Japan after major quakes that the Japanese have a name for it – “jishin-yoi”, which literally means “earthquake drunk” in English.
Those affected become aware of the rocking feeling especially when indoors and seated. There seems to be prevalence in the following groups:
- Those who regularly suffer from motion sickness
- Women are affected more than men
- People with vertigo related disease
- Anyone suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome
- People who suffer from anxiety.
The underlying mechanism is associated with stimuli to the vestibular and equilibrium balance systems in the inner ear.
Prevention and Treatment
There are some simple ways to reduce the wobbly weeks after a quake, and here are a few tips:
- Maintain a daily outdoor exercise program
- Avoid anxiety caused by reports in the media
- Dizziness is less likely to happen if you are outdoors in an open space
- Physiotherapy may prevent symptoms from getting worse.
- The problem can often be relieved, much like motion sickness, by training one’s eyes on a distant object.
- laying down or sipping cold or hot liquids can help.
- In more severe cases, patients may be advised to use over-the-counter antihistamines or motion sickness pills.
But is it Really a Quake?
We actually have a family member in our house that is suffering from the wobbles, so to reassure him that the ground really isn’t shaking I have placed jars with colored water in strategic places around the house so that when he starts to feel “weird” he can look at the jar and see if the water is moving or not.
He claims that it really is comforting to know that its just him that’s shaking and not the ground. If you add a decent size spoon of salt to the water it will act as a preservative so as you don’t need to change the water every few days. If you have a swimming pool, you can also check the water level on the pool to see if there is any disturbance.
Am I Really Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
If your symptoms go beyond a few weeks of feeling wobbly or tense, including fearful thoughts, flashbacks or bad dreams then you could be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
These symptoms can become problematic in a person’s life. Some of the avoidance symptoms include difficulty remembering the traumatic event and avoiding reminders of the experience, such as places, people and objects. Hyperarousal symptoms may also arise, such as feeling tense, being startled easily and having trouble sleeping.
While it is normal to experience some of these symptoms after a terrible event, if you find that you are constantly haunted by these memories then you should seek help from a professional such as your local doctor who may prescribe anti-anxiety medication or refer you to a counselor, hypnotherapist or other professional help.
Kim Patra is a qualified Midwife & Nurse Practioner who has been living and working in Bali for over 30 years. She now runs her own Private Practice & Mothers & Babies center at her Community Health Care office in Sanur.
Copyright © 2018 Kim Patra
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