Review of PTSD since 9/11

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been studied a great deal in the US since the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and since this past September was the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, researchers have reviewed the data that has been collected and tried to make some sense out of it.

In a review of the studies of PTSD in the people who had been most closely associated with the tragedy, such as rescue and recovery workers, Pentagon staff, WTC evacuees, NYC workers, and children, the researchers examined the long and short term consequences. Researchers found that, although there was a general decline in symptoms, certain groups had a worsening, including rescue and recovery workers, firefighters, children and people living in close proximity. Ongoing stress contributed to their PTSD. For them, the disaster did not end on 9/11.

Increased problems seen post 9/11 were:

1. Major depression

2. Generalized anxiety disorder

3. Complicated grief (which includes prolonged yearning, bitterness, sense of meaninglessness and disengagement).

What protects people from worsening PTSD?

People seem to be more resilient if:

1. They are hardy, meaning that they display commitment or involvement in daily activities and perceived control over life events. They also show a tendency to view unexpected change or potential threat as a positive challenge rather than as an aversive event.

2. They have strong attachments. Good social networks always help and healthy attachments styles also contribute to well being.

3. They have certain biological factors.

4. They have a cognitive attributional style which allows them to respond to events with positive appraisals concerning both the level of threat present and their ability to cope effectively with the threat. They see life events as under their control.

Source: Neria, Yuval et al. PTSD following the 9/11/01 Terrorist Attacks. American Psychologist V. 66 #6, pp 429-446.

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