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September 21, 2001
Coping with Tragedy: Sharon Regional Offers Tips on Coping with Post-Traumatic
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