The Boston massacre: How to cope with post-terrorism trauma

What to do to deal with trauma after a terrorist attack. Photo: The bombings in Boston (AP)

WASHINGTON- April 16, 2013- “How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.”-Salman Rushdie, Author.

The Boston Marathon massacre is another chapter of terrorism in America. Regardless if it is the responsibility of one or an entire group, this act is terrorism.

The National Center on the Psychology of Terrorism was founded in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001 to research psychological aspects of terrorism, mass trauma and to develop mass tragedy response strategies from the behavioral sciences.

Findings reported from the APA of victims of terrorism stem form terrorist attempts to instill fear and helplessness in citizens. Fear is the expectation of future destruction and harm.

Seemingly random or targeted terrorist actions can off a chain of psychological events including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), prolonged grief leading to chronic depression, and at greater levels, xenophobia or fear of leaving the home.

It is not unusual for victims and witnesses of a terrorist act to have recurring thoughts of the action, harbor intense fears, become isolated, feel ‘survivors guilt” (why did I live?”), intense sense of loss and a sense of losing control of one’s life, environment and sense of safety.

Means of overcoming the feelings of trauma may include:

~Identify and understand whatever you are feeling is normal under the circumstances.

~Bring to mind that you have overcome adversity in the past and recall what you did to see you through.

~Stay with your usual routine-do not succumb to fear.

~Think in positive terms. The worst is over.

~Do not get caught up in thinking things are beyond your control and what is truly beyond your control, let it be- its beyond your control.

~Know that our government is everywhere doing everything they can to keep you safe.

Some sufferers also report symptoms of PTSD which are identified by The National Institutes of Health (NIH) as:

~Bad dreams,

~Frightening thoughts.

~Avoiding places or objects of reminders.

~Feeling strong guilt, depression or worry.

~Loss of interest of enjoyable activities.

~Trouble recalling events.

~Easily startled.

~Onset of difficulty sleeping.

~Unusual angry outbursts.

If these symptoms persist, visit a mental health care specialist right away to ferret out and identify feelings and address reactions to events. Minimally, discuss your experience with someone you trust or someone with similar experience.


Paul Mountoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association of Psychological Science.


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