After the Boston Marathon Blasts: Growing Incidences of PTSD a Concern

On a day like all others, at a place where families and friends were gathered for the purpose of love, celebration and support – when no one expected it – two bomb blasts ripped through crowds and lives. The blasts at the Boston Marathon left three people dead and 170 plus with injuries. Some injuries were all too obvious. Others may not become evident for a few days.  Experts say that a good number of those who lived through this trauma may have stress-induced problems like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result.

Doctors in Boston reported that shards of debris and bomb particles necessitated traumatic amputations reminiscent of battlefront injuries. And just like other battlefront traumas, the Boston bombings will likely affect not only those who were physically hit, but those who watched others being injured or who responded with aid to the stricken. These horrors impact everyone at the scene, though the more direct the involvement the more likely that emotional difficulties will arise.

Those at the scene and those treating the wounded describe the explosions by comparing them to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) like those used to slow down combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The similarities between a family-lined street in Boston and the fields of war seem to be almost surreal for those who were there that day. Experts say that such feelings are common for those with Acute Stress Disorder, sometimes an initial phase of PTSD.

If Acute Stress Disorder persists for more than 30 days and if there is a sufficient number of symptoms, then the diagnosis changes to PTSD. At first, a person with PTSD may experience insomnia. When they can sleep, nightmares about the trauma may haunt them. A person with PTSD may develop a feeling of discomfort in large groups. For those in Boston on that day, being in a crowd could trigger memories of the event and so avoidance of them could seem like a natural response. But people with PTSD become increasingly isolated and easily startled.

Those with experience treating patients with PTSD say that as many as 20 percent of those involved in the Boston bombings may go on to develop PTSD. The fact that the event was man-caused makes it more likely that the trauma will trouble survivors. Traumas caused by people are more impactful than the traumas experienced because of natural disasters.

Because what people need most is help in processing this horror, distress hotlines have been set up in the Boston area. Right away psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors were made available at hospitals, emergency sites and houses of worship. The person with PTSD is ready to do anything possible to avoid intrusive memories, but most agree that talking through what happened and the feelings that result can help to lower the risk of PTSD taking hold. The most valuable resources for that kind of sharing are family and community members.

Posted on June 1st, 2013
Posted in PTSD

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