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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Record Anxiety Levels Over Terrorism

Men, Women Have Different Ways of Dealing With Worry


In his own survey done one month after the World Trade Center attack -- when terror anxiety was last at levels now reached -- Nuccitelli found that women admitted to higher levels of overall post-Sept. 11 trauma in all age groups except in ages 50-59, sometimes four times as often. He also found:

  • Almost half of the women and virtually no men reported being fearful of flying
  • One in three women and virtually no men said they were worried about further terror attacks
  • One in three women reported terrorist-related nightmares. No men did.
  • Four in 10 women avoided media coverage of Sept. 11. Men didn't.

Whether this means that men are less scared or just less willing to admit it is up for debate. But it may help explain why depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder are more common in women. Clinical assessments of these conditions are largely based on physical symptoms such as sleep problems or a loss of interest in sex -- as well as admitting to these and other symptoms. "There's an old adage in depression: Women internalize and men externalize," Nuccitelli says.

And kids? They seem to be doing both.

Nuccitelli's counseling center reports a flood of recent inquiring and appointment-making phone calls -- mostly from anxious mothers about the terror they feel in themselves or have seen in their children. "There's a big increase in sleep disturbances among children because of fears of terrorism," he says. "I'm counseling one young child now who was brought in for bedwetting. It took six sessions to find out it's because she fears that al-Qaida is living in the cubbyhole in her closet, where you can access the bathroom pipes."

To help your kids deal with current events, you need to inspire safety and security in a way that is best suited for your child. "Whatever you tell children, they take their nonverbal cues from their parents," says Barnett. So if you suddenly duct-tape your windows and stock up on food and water, that drastic disruption in daily routine can be shocking to kids -- or reassuring by showing that you're taking action.

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