9/11 and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 10 Years Later

In the weeks leading up to the 10th anniversary of September 11th, the New York Times appears to be devoting a number of articles to examining the emotional and psychological fallout of that event. Following on the heels of a piece that appeared last week (see H-Madness post of 7/31), a piece appeared in today’s edition that looks specifically at the PTSD diagnosis and at the huge numbers of people identified as suffering from psychological trauma as a result either of their direct personal experience of 9/11, their loss of a loved one, or – more controversially – their recurring exposure to images of the tragedy. Among other issues covered in the article are the extent to which debates over definition, treatment, and compensation continue to surround the diagnosis, as they have ever since it first emerged (most commonly then known as shell-shock) out of the battlefields of World War I. Among those interviewed for the article are Robert Spitzer, editor of the DSM-III (1980), in which PTSD was included for the first time, and Charles Figley, a clinician who was instrumental in its inclusion. Spitzer is one of those currently arguing for defining the condition more narrowly so as to exclude, for instance, the indirect effects associated with media coverage of the event.

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