News Coverage of 9/11 and PTSD
As September 11, 2012 approaches we face the anniversary of the terrible terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC and the loss of innocent lives. Already, there is a lot of news coverage of that disaster, in between news about the presidential election. There is good reason for all of us to be cautious about television viewing this coming week.
There is accumulating evidence that repeated viewing of traumatic events on television cause symptoms of PTSD even if you were never traumatized before. Studies show that watching four hours of television images per day of soldiers at war or of other terrorist attacks results in psychological and physical damage, such as high blood pressure and heart attacks. The same is true of watching images of hurricane Katrina, or the tsunami in Japan or gruesome pictures of the death of Osama bin Laden, all create a collective or community wide trauma all across the nation.
The news media, You tube, Facebook and other media cannot and should not censor what they show. Instead, it is up to each of us to be self protective by avoiding coverage of these disasters. It should go without saying that children should protected from viewing these things.
What is especially insidious about these graphic images is that they are shown repeatedly so that they appear morning, noon, evening and all day long. In other words, a perpetual state of trauma is created for anyone who repeatedly watches these types of images.
Those individuals who have a history of PTSD are even more vulnerable to relapse of symptoms if they view 9/11 images.
I urge our readers to protect yourselves and your family from exposure to disturbing videos and pictures of 9/11.
There is nothing helpful about traumatizing yourselves or your loved ones.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD