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© 2001-2002 Sharon Regional Health System • 740 East State Street • Sharon, PA 16146
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For more Information call our Health Information Center at :
724-983-5518 or 800-346-7997

For Immediate Release                      September 21, 2001

Coping with Tragedy: Sharon Regional Offers Tips on Coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

In the wake of tragic events such as the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it is not uncommon for those who witness or experience traumatic events to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A condition marked by intense fear and helplessness, PTSD is a protective response of the brain that affects adults and children. Symptoms can manifest themselves immediately following the event or weeks, months or years later.

Not everyone who witnesses or experiences traumatic events develops PTSD. A person’s risk is determined by a number of factors, including the response to the event at the time it occurs, intensity of the memory of the event, coping style, personality, past life experiences and feelings of safety and support.

“We can’t prevent exposure to events that cause post-traumatic stress,” says Steven Riggall, M.D., psychiatrist and medical director of Sharon Regional Health System’s Behavioral Health Services, “especially when these events are covered on the news continuously, but early intervention and treatment following the event may prevent the development of symptoms and associated conditions of this disorder.”

Symptoms of PTSD can be both emotional and physical. Emotional symptoms manifest themselves as people relive the event through vivid dreams, recall painful memories, develop a belief that the event is happening at the present time. The result can be emotional numbness and guilt. Accompanying physical symptoms include extreme anxiety, panic, sweating, feelings of intense fear and difficulty sleeping.

Sharon Regional offers tips for helping victims of PTSD cope:

* Encourage the person to talk about his or her thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event. A supportive network of friends, family and health professionals can make all the difference.

* Clear up any misconceptions the person may have about the situation. This is particularly important when talking with children, who may be inclined to feel guilt or a sense of responsibility for the event.

* Encourage the person to use effective coping strategies.

* Reliance on alcohol, overeating and engaging in dangerous activities can only lead to more problems.

* Help the person return to his or her normal daily activities. Daily routines and activities can provide comfort and emotional stability.

* Suggest the victim see a physician or check with local mental health, community resources, or Sharon Regional’s Behavioral Health Services. Professionals are trained to help victims of tragedy cope with their feelings.

More information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be found on the LaurusHealth site at www.sharonregional.com.

LaurusHealth, which provides consumers with access to reliable, easy-to-understand health information and local health resources, is made available in the area by Sharon Regional.