By RACHEL YEHUDA, PH.D.
The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001,
represented an amalgam of interpersonal violence,loss, and disaster. Tens of thousands of people
ran for their lives in fear, were exposed to graphic scenes of death, or lost loved ones. It is estimated that well over 100,000 people directly witnessed the events, and many people around the world were also exposed to these horrifying scenes through the media.
- The attacks were followed by the imminent threat
of subsequent attacks, the prospect of war, and bioterrorism.
These events have influenced and will continue
to influence the clinical presentation of patients
seeking health care services, and post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) will develop in a substantial
number of people. On the basis of data obtained after
the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in
Oklahoma City, which was previously the deadliest
act of terrorism in America, one could predict PTSD
will develop in approximately 35 percent of those
who were directly exposed to the September 11 attacks.
- In addition, many persons with prior exposure
to traumatic events may have a recrudescence of
PTSD symptoms triggered by news of catastrophic
events and their distressing effects. Since traumatized
persons with PTSD are far more likely to visit primary
care physicians for their symptoms than mental health
professionals, primary care practitioners will play an
important part in identifying and treating this disorder.