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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Anxiety in America -- Terror's Aftermath

How Bad Is It, When Will It Go Away, and What Can We Do to Cope?
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PTSD continued...

But if these symptoms persist, or interfere with daily life, individuals should seek professional help.

"Is anxiety interfering with your ability to concentrate at work? Are you getting very little sleep because of nightmares?" Koenen asks. "Have you stopped socializing because you don't want to ride the subway? Are you constantly on edge, irritable toward your spouse or children?"

If you answer yes to these questions, Koenen recommends consulting a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker experienced in treating trauma survivors.

"The important thing for people to know is that they are not crazy. Many ... can be treated effectively with psychotherapy in a relatively brief period and then can go on with their lives," she says.

How to Cope?

Even if you don't need professional help, there are things you can do to cope with the stress of constantly being on "high alert."

"Terrorism works by making us feel helpless, so to deal with it, we need to find all the ways we can to control our lives," Gibbs says. "Living our ordinary lives in the usual way makes us feel better."

As President Bush has urged, we all need to continue working, parenting, socializing, playing, and shopping as we normally would.

"Active coping strategies that help us feel control over the possibility of terrorism are often better than trying to distract ourselves," Gibbs says. "Washing your hands after getting the mail may be a 'symptom' of anxiety, but if it makes you feel more in control, it's a positive thing to do. Helping others and listening to their stories is another active and useful coping strategy."

In Schuster's survey, 98% of adults coped with their stress by talking with others, 90% by turning to religion, 60% by participatingin group activities, and 36% by making donations. To ease their children's fears, 84% of parents reported that they had talked to their children about the attacksfor an hour or more, and 34% restricted their children'stelevision viewing.

"A great deal of distress was associated with the experience of being exposed, often repeatedly, to horrific events through graphic images," Kaloupek says. He recommends that both children and adults limit television viewing time regarding the attacks, especially those who are emotionally overwhelmed.

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