Coping with the psychological effects of flooding 

This information is adapted from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's information sheet issued at the time of the Kendal floods in 2015.

In the first days and weeks

Many people will be experiencing strong reactions to the impact of the Dales floods. Everyone is unique and will react differently, but typical reactions to such an extreme event can include:




Nervousness, fear or anxiety

Difficulty sleeping


Low mood




Such feelings are completely normal. For some people who have been flooded previously, their reactions may be compounded and might lead to feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.


For people who have been exposed to highly threatening situations, people can also experience flashbacks or nightmares. This is normal in the days and weeks following the events. We are all individuals and there is no right or wrong way to be coping or feeling.

We all have different ways of responding and circumstances can vary greatly, from those with strong extended networks to those who are more isolated or do not have friends and family in the area.


For some people, they may have been experiencing a degree of life difficulties or problems before the floods; the additional stress of the flood can become ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’.


For most people, their first priorities will be practical around basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing, transport. During later stages, people are focussed on repairing the damage and trying to deal with builders and insurance companies to try and get their homes back in order.

In the following weeks and months

For most people affected who have never experienced problems with anxiety or low mood before, these psychological effects will gradually disappear over time and with support from the local community.


So a period of ‘watchful waiting’ is advised, which means just keeping an eye on yourself and others and checking out how things are going before assuming that any reactions won’t go away on their own with time.


Research and local experience tells us people might go on to experience problems that require additional help, this can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic worry, etc. Based on previous floods, the numbers of people seeking talking therapies tends to peak 4-6 months after the flood (when practical tasks have been completed and people may be starting to realise that there has been a longer term psychological impact following the immediate reactions).

How to get help

If you do feel that your reactions to the floods have got stuck or that you’re feeling more low or anxious than you might expect, psychological help is available.


If you are struggling with low mood or some form of anxiety, seeking help is sensible and is not a sign of weakness. If you are struggling with low mood, panic attacks, anxiety, chronic worry, flashbacks or obsessional thoughts then effective help is available.

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