Two months ago there were two major earthquakes that struck the city of Kumamoto, Japan on the southern island of Kyushu. One was a magnitude 6.4 and the very next day a massive magnitude 7.1 quake struck the same region. 50 people were killed and several thousand injured. Now, two months later, more than 200 people have been diagnosed with dizziness following the disaster in a condition known as “jishin-yoi” meaning “earthquake drunk”.
With this earthquake sickness, people feel dizziness and feel like they are experiencing an earthquake. It makes them them lose balance much like motion sickness. They are also scared that another earthquake is coming and experts believe stress and anxiety are contributing factors. Half of those who came forward with symptoms also said they felt depressed. Dr. Munetaka Ushio of the University of Tokyo Hospital’s department of otolaryngology (specializing in the ears, nose, and throat) said:
“An estimated 30% of the population in quake-stricken areas have experienced this… even I have had it recently”
Thankfully the feeling of being unbalanced is temporary and it occurs when there is a neurological “mismatch” between the balance mechanism in the vestibular system of the inner ear and sensory signals from nerves in the eyes and feet. It can usually be relieved by focusing your eyes on a distant object, laying down, or sipping cold or hot liquids much like the way to cure motion sickness. Severe cases may be triggered by post traumatic stress disorder and could linger for weeks or months which is the case for some Kumamoto residents.
There have been over 1,600 aftershocks that hit the region since the April quake with more than 89 registered at magnitude 4 or more. No wonder anxiety is high as the rebuilding process continues. Must be a horrible feeling of first experiencing such a disaster then re-living the shaking on a daily basis. Hopefully that feeling will go away as I’m sure it can leave a lot of emotional and mental scars.