In case you missed it yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran a lengthy piece on the widespread symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among those connected to the 9/11 attacks and what psychiatrists have learned from studying this new population of patients:
The sudden abundance of sufferers from the condition, and of research on them, has prompted the nation's psychiatrists to broaden their criteria for diagnosing the disorder in ways that would make room for people... whose exposure to the twin towers' fall was distant and whose symptoms took time to materialize. In the process, psychiatric leaders pondered for the first time how factors such as community cohesion, poverty and media coverage can affect the public's mental health when mass disaster strikes.
"9/11 changed the picture of PTSD, and transformed it from being simply a mental disorder that psychiatrists deal with to a public health issue," says Charles Figley, a pioneer in the study of the disorder who directs Tulane University's Traumatology Institute and Psychological Stress Research Program. Researchers have come to realize how well communities recover from mass violence or disaster is a barometer of their overall mental health, he adds.
The piece also quotes Stanford PTSD expert David Spiegel, MD:
"Before we had the current notion of PTSD, we tended to think that those who developed it were people with character disorders — there was a sort of 'blame the victim' quality to our thinking," says... Spiegel, director of Stanford University's Center on Stress and Health. Sept. 11, he says, has challenged much of that thinking.