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
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
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.