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The American Psyche, Post-9/11

How 9/11 Changed Us

Identifying PTSD continued...

While people in New York City and Washington have been particularly susceptible to the psychological impact of 9/11, men and women in every part of the U.S. have been affected as well. Not only did almost everyone view the televised collapse of the World Trade Center towers, but according to the RTI researchers, a startling 10 million adults in the U.S. had a friend, family member, or co-worker killed or injured in the attacks.

"Having a relative's or close friend's physical well-being challenged is considered a traumatic event sufficient for the development of PTSD," says Juesta M. Caddell, PhD, senior research clinical psychologist and a co-author of the RTI study. The RTI research found a 4% prevalence of probable PTSD in the country as a whole, translating into many millions of cases away from New York City and the nation's capital.

Reshaping Personal Lives

"Sept. 11 was a terrible loss -- not just in terms of lost life, but in terms of a lost way of life," says Yael Danieli, PhD, a New York City clinical psychologist, and a founding director of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. She believes that a "new normality" must be established that incorporates uncertainty, including a greater readiness for "anything." She adds, "It means accepting that nothing will ever be the same again. This may feel bad, but it's realistic."

For many, the way they live and the decisions they make in their day-to-day life are still being influenced by 9/11. "It affects what they tell and how they raise their children, where they send them to school, their relationship to their work, and whether they want to remain in a job that's in a high-rise building, especially downtown," says Danieli. "People are also making these decisions in a poor economic atmosphere, so even though they may want to leave their jobs, they're afraid they may not find another one."

Anger and Optimism

Many Americans have reacted angrily to the events of Sept. 11, and according to recent research, these individuals tend to have a more optimistic outlook on the future than those who have responded with fear.

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