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September 11 and PTSD

This Friday marks the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.  The horrific incident involved the tragic loss of thousands of innocent lives in New York City,WashingtonD.C. and Pennsylvania.

The attacks shocked the country and forced us to focus on critical issues with national security and terrorism.  It has also forced individuals to deal with more emotional issues such as post traumatic stress disorder.  The situation can become further complicated in the case of our children’s experience with the event and their developmental level. 

Usually, it does not rise to a severe level for those removed from an actual loss.

Sadly, the September 11th tragedy is only the most recent disaster for posttraumatic stress disorder. The scope of the PTSD problem in our society is actually quite substantial. For example, according to the, PTSD has been found in 15% of 500,000 men who wereVietnamveterans. At the same time, nearly 18% of 10 million women who were victims of physical assault have PTSD.  As a matter of fact, eight to 10% of men and women will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives.

The events of September 11 have caused a great deal of grief and sadness throughout the country. It is probably still too early to estimate the damage to the nation’s collective psyche.

Diagnostic symptoms for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include

  • Going through the original trauma(s) again through flashbacks or nightmares
  • evasion of stimuli connected with the trauma,
  • increased arousal – such as difficulty falling or staying asleep,
  • anger
  • severe anxiety.

It is important to understand that having strong reactions to trauma is normal.  It is also important to note that there are efficient and effective treatments for PTSD.

Early Treatment is Better

Symptoms of PTSD can get worse.  Dealing with symptoms as soon as possible can prevent them from getting significantly worse.

 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Treatments 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy. Trauma-focused Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD involves carefully revealing yourself to thoughts, feelings, and events that remind you of the incident—and replacing them with a more balanced picture.
  • Family therapy.  This condition affects both you and those close to you. Family therapy can help everyone understand what you’re going through and help the family communicate better.
  • Medication. Medicine is sometimes given to people with PTSD to alleviate secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety.

With the anniversary of the event coming at the end of this week, you can expect an increased level of awareness and media attention, thus bringing a lot of questions from your children.  Please find some published strategies below to help with any questions you may have on how best to respond to your child.

APA – American Psychological Association


Resilience Guide

Information about ways to support healthy coping for parents and teachers.

NY Times – Explaining 9/11 to a Muslim Child

A New York Times (2009) by a Muslim mother, about how to explain 9/11 to her child.

Other information:

Visit the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Museum

Take a virtual tour of the memorial:

NASP – National Association of School Psychologists

10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001

Thankfully, most individuals  are fortunate enough to have a relatively non-traumatic childhood and do not suffer many traumas as adults. However, when there is a significant traumatic event such as what happened 10 years ago, some individuals can expect to be temporarily overwhelmed and develop at least some of the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

It is important to remember that it is completely normal to experience significant stress from the event and there are treatments to help those to do.

It is also important to remember those who passed away, honor those who guide our country’s borders, and reflect on the country’s ability to bounce back.

Some children may experience or re-experience passionate feelings related to the terrorist attacks because of their personal circumstances. Parents and adults can help them process their reactions in a healthy way.

Take this opportunity to foster children’s resilience and coping skills, and help them see themselves as a positive force in their world, despite all the adversity that they may encounter.  At the end of the day, we can only hope that we will never have to experience a repeat of the traumatic tragedy of September 11th.

By: South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney Pete Strom






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