Post-disaster shock triggers “earthquake drunkenness” in Japan

9 years ago by in Travel

Ever felt your “earthquake drunk”? Researchers say it happens to 50 percent of people who experienced major earthquakes and right now cases are on the rise in Japan. How does it feel? You experience the sensation of a quake even when there is none.

The Los Angeles Times tells the story of a 38-year-old Japanese physician at Tokyo Medical Center, Munetaka Ushio, who started to research the illness when he began to experience it himself.

"I felt something was shaking. I didn’t know whether it was an aftershock or if my mind was playing tricks on me," he said. Later, after asking people around and checking a quake-monitoring website, he understood that it was all in his head.

Mental health experts think the illness, which is known as jishin-yoi, is similar to what people feel after coming back from a longer sea trip: a kind of sea-sick that strikes long time after you’ve been on solid ground.

It is yet another psychological challenge for people who have been seriously traumatized by the March quake and tsunami in Japan.

Doctors are still researching to understand if this illness, which is not life threatening, is caused by a brain-inner ear disconnection or by a psychosomatic form of quake phobia that makes patients become super-alert and try to anticipate the next aftershock.

Clinics in northeastern Japan, the area most affected by the March disasters, have reported an increase in patients with symptoms that often include falling down, fevers and vomiting.

The same condition, which in many cases triggers panic attacks, was reported at patients in Chile and New Zealand, after recent earthquakes. [LA Times] Photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery