Forest Fires: Loss and Longing in California

Climate change is a daily reality, but nowhere is that reality more viscerally experienced than at the point of disaster. The California wildfires that are engulfing 2020 damage more than just property; they also destroy lives.

We feel for everyone affected by the Bobcat Fire, August Complex Fire, Creek Fire, North Complex Fire, and dozens of residual blazes that befell our beautiful state this year. The devastation ripples through our communities and has an indelible impact on our collective consciousness. 

If you need help coping with the effects of the climate crisis on your life, or the wellbeing of a loved one, please contact our offices. NeuroZone has three convenient locations to best serve the needs of our California friends and neighbors.

You can call (310) 821-3640 to reach us in Santa Monica, Playa Del Rey, or Redondo Beach. Start with a free consultation and then we will proceed from there.

The Science of Loss

When calamity upends your life, it can have a disastrous effect on your psychological health. This dynamic is much more significant than simply “I’m sad that I no longer have XYZ” – instead, you mourn the loss of stability. When significant portions of your life are destroyed, you struggle to trust the very support systems upon which you once relied.

Two important organizations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-IDSR), recently provided two important definitions of “disaster.” WHO describes the phenomenon as “a sudden ecologic phenomenon of sufficient magnitude to require external assistance.” Meanwhile, UN-IDSR calls disaster “a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.”[1]

Under both of these definitions, the individual forfeits control. They must rely on outside help to save their property, their families, and their lives. While we are eternally grateful for the first responders who rushed to the scene of our recent spate of California wildfires, we also worry about the loss of confidence that the victims of those fires are experiencing. The need to evacuate at a moment’s notice has prompted some California residents to keep a “go bag” handy at all times. We are essentially living in fear of the next disaster. The larger question now looms over everyday life: are we living our lives to the fullest when we are constantly preoccupied by the next tragedy that could strike at any minute?

The Greta Thunberg Effect

Awareness is empowering, but it can also be overwhelming. One of the most notable heroes in the fight against climate change is Nobel Prize candidate Greta Thunberg. Ms. Thunberg raised our consciousness and became a lightning rod for partisan debate. Instead of listening to her message, the media began infighting about her impact.

Young people watching the Greta Thunberg phenomenon felt the controversy on a personal level. She connected with a whole new generation of climate activists, but that generation was immediately derided by older individuals fighting to maintain the status quo. The debate fueled the fires of divisiveness and contributed to the rise of the protest generation. 

By giving voice to the numerous issues facing our planet, activists are also falling prey to a phenomenon called “climate anxiety.”[2] Absorbing the realities of cataclysm can weigh heavily on a young mind. We are all Greta Thunberg, and we are all beginning to emulate her sense of rage and helplessness. 

The Climate Crisis & Medications

One particular vulnerable population consists of those already struggling with persistent psychological conditions. Climate events place added mental strain and pronounced physiological stress on individuals with coping issues. Many of the recent forest fires were exacerbated by the extreme heat enveloping the globe.

Extreme heat also disproportionately affects people who are taking psychoactive medications.[3] They are less able to regulate their body temperature than people who are not taking said medications. Hence, heat waves that make most of us miserable can actually be lethal for individuals who have been prescribed psychoactive meds. 

There is also the issue of how climate events prevent their victims from accessing various resources in the aftermath of a fire, flood, etc. Survivors often have trouble getting proper meals, let alone easy access to the nearest pharmacy (which may have also been impacted by the very event that drove people from their homes). 

If you are dependent on antidepressants, anxiety drugs, or any other mood-stabilizing medications, disasters will be exponentially more difficult to process without your prescriptions.

Benefits of Neurofeedback

Picking up on that last point, medications are sometimes necessary, but they usher in a host of complications that must be considered. One of the greatest benefits of neurofeedback training is its commitment to a drug-free lifestyle. 

Neurofeedback testing measures your brainwaves as you react to various stimuli. For example, how does your mind respond to sudden noises, clashing colors, and complex imagery? By showing you how your brain works in real-time, you can assess your own thought processes. You will not only interact honestly with the programmed material on your personal screen, but you will also analyze how that material makes you feel.

To learn how neurofeedback can help you maneuver the difficulties of loss, depression, anxiety, and more, contact our offices online or call (310) 821-3640 at your earliest convenience.

Treating Disaster-Related PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is on the rise due to the sheer number of climate events that are displacing and harming people around the world. One extensive study examined the effects of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean on tourists who survived the disaster. The results showed how the horrors of the climate crisis correlated with substance use issues among those who experienced it.[4] Women who survived the brunt of the tsunami increased their usage of alcohol, cannabis products, and pharmaceuticals. Men were significantly more likely to abuse pharmaceutical products as a result of their experiences during the 2004 climate event.

To address issues of PTSD that will inevitably arise from our current wildfire crises, we strive to move away from the culture of prescribing the pain away. Instead, we have designed a unique program around the concept of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Clients are invited to recount their recent traumatic experiences with a trained, empathetic therapist. During their session, the therapist will instruct her client to move their eyes while they relive certain memories. The effect of EMDR is to minimize the pain of traumatic experiences and focus a client’s attention on controlling how those experiences affect them.

EMDR is combined with neurofeedback to give our clients even more power when it comes to assessing their own coping tools. By illustrating how PTSD plays on people’s emotions and thought processes, we empower them to change the narrative. Instead of being paralyzed by trauma, our clients begin to gain new perspectives on how to deal with PTSD.

Private Consultation at NeuroZone

The medical professionals at NeuroZone offer years of expertise and fathoms of compassion. In addition to the many academic accolades we have achieved, we are also just great listeners. After all, communication is the first step towards improvement, so we want to hear from you. Tell us how the climate has affected your life and how it weighs on your mind.

In an effort to provide top-notch communication to our SoCal communities, we regularly update our blog. Feel free to peruse our posts and bring any questions that arise with you to your free consultation. We are eager to meet with you. 

Success Stories

Whether you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or an inability to cope with the tragic fallout of our current climate crises, NeuroZone wants to help. We carefully assess your concerns and craft a comprehensive strategy to contextualize your thoughts and feelings. Take a look at our glowing reviews to get an idea of how we always prioritize our clients’ health and happiness. 


How much does neurofeedback training cost in Southern California?

This year has been difficult enough without having to worry about expensive self-care. NeuroZone offers free consultations to help determine which of our services will benefit you the most. After that, we provide transparent pricing as we address your needs and empower your mind. 


  1. Makwana N. (2019). Disaster and its impact on mental health: A narrative review. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 8 (10) 3090–3095. 
  2. The Guardian. (2020). ‘Overwhelming and terrifying’: the rise of climate anxiety.
  3. American Psychological Association article. (2016). Climate Change Is Threatening Mental Health. 47 (7) 28. Retrieved from: 
  4. Vetter, S., Rossegger, A., Rossler, W. et al. (2008). Exposure to the tsunami disaster, PTSD symptoms and increased substance use – an Internet based survey of male and female residents of Switzerland. BMC Public Health 8, 92. 
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