We all talk about our zombie survival plans and how to kill zeds, but think about it for one minute. I mean REALLY think about it. What would you do if somebody on the street actually attacked and tried to eat you? Or if you saw a corpse actually stand up and start shambling towards you? My bet is that most of us would freeze, we wouldn’t be able to comprehend what was happening, at least at first. This doesn’t mean you are weak or anything of the like, it would just be a natural reaction, your brain trying to process something that it knows shouldn’t be happening.
For those of us that survive the first few critical hours of a zombie apocalypse it won’t be the person who has the best gun, fastest car, or biggest stock pile; it will those with the ability function under extreme stress that will survive. This is referred to as mental fortitude. Mental Fortitude is defined by a person’s ability to deal with stressful situations whether they are sudden and short or prolonged. This statement is true of all stressful situations, whether it is a car accident, a flood, earthquake or a zombie uprising. No matter what the situation, you freeze, you die; or at the very least become a casualty.
During stress of any kind your body always kicks in that ancient hardwired instinct generally referred to as fight or flight. Depending on who you are will dictate your reaction, you may run, you may fight or you may freeze up. Best case scenario you get over this quickly and react accordingly.
For the situations we talk about on ZPOC you have to consider that you will most likely be faced with both types of situations. There will be the sudden shock of seeing or hearing about the disaster you are being thrust into such as a flood, forest fire, riot, zombie uprising. Then there will be the prolonged stress of having to deal with short to mid term (hopefully not long term) survival in the midst of the disaster area. These are two completely different types of stress and can lead to different disorders.
A sudden, horrific and / or terrifying incident (such as an earth quake, car accident, witnessing or being the victim of a violent crime, or watching your friend being torn to shreds by zombies) can cause what is referred to as Acute Stress Disorder. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: tunnel vision, tremors, nausea, confusion,and an inability to comprehend the situation. Basically witnessing a horrific event can cause mental shock similar to the shock you suffer from a physical injury. These will be evident almost immediately at the the onset of a disaster or at the point of the incident.
If you survive the initial onset and are forced to deal with survival in a disaster area such as living through a flood, the aftermath of an earthquake or in a post apocalyptic world filled with cannibalistic ghouls hunting you 24 / 7 the prolonged stress can and will in most cases lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of this vary widely including everything from substance abuse to complete disconnection from reality.
I would like to say on a personal note that you should not doubt these disorders exist or underestimate their devastating effects. I have seen them both and I am not ashamed to say that I personally suffered from mild PTSD after a particularly nasty mission. If these conditions go untreated they can and will destroy your life and the lives of those around you.
The truly unfortunate thing about this is that there really is no way to prepare yourself or others for stress like that which has been discussed here. Nobody really knows how they or others will react when thrust into an extreme situation. All you can do is be aware that ASD and PTSD exist. Educate yourself on the symptoms then observe yourself and those around you for them. If anybody begins to show signs of either then they must receive professional help as soon as possible. You can learn more about PTSD here.
Where mental fortitude is concern nobody can truly answer the question Are you prepared? They can only answer the question: Are you prepared to do what you have to to help those affected?