1 in 10 New Yorkers Has PTSD
Trauma of Sept. 11 Lingers in Wide NYC Area
Randall Marshall, MD, is director of trauma studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University. He is deeply involved in the city's relief efforts and heads the effort to train New York-area mental health professionals in the treatment of PTSD.
"We're seeing a lot of PTSD, but also a lot of relapse of anxiety disorders and relapse of depression," Marshall tells WebMD.
Charles B. Strozier, PhD, is director of the Center on Terrorism and Public Safety at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He's also a practicing psychotherapist who has been helping trauma victims of the World Trade Center attacks.
"I've been interviewing survivors since the second week after the attack," Strozier tells WebMD. "With every threat they climb under their bed. I know a woman who was an executive at [a World Trade Center investment firm] -- and every time she turns on the TV and hears a terrorism warning she gets so scared she shatters. There are a lot of people like that, suffering a great deal."
Marshall says that the best treatment for PTSD is a specific form of psychotherapy in which patients -- in a totally safe environment -- relive their trauma with the support of a therapist. This has been hard to do in the New York area, where alarms and building evacuations continued for months after the attack.
"For weeks and months after Sept. 11, a lot of the people we are seeing are convinced that there are a lot of new dangers out there," Marshall says. "It is hard to tell them the environment is safe, that they can change their perception that everything is dangerous."
The message from the new study is clear, Marshall says. People who are suffering any kind of lingering symptoms from Sept. 11 -- no matter where they live -- will need professional help.
"Ten months out it is very clear. If people still have even partial PTSD they will feel bad for months or years if they don't get help," Marshall notes. "It is a real disorder with real brain alterations. It is not in your head. It is certainly not the moral failing many people feel it is. There are effective therapies and effective medications."