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Preventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the Mumbai terror attacks

Posted Nov 28 2008 12:03pm
The recent terror attacks have devastated Mumbai. While Mumbaikars are resilient and the city will bounce back to normal soon , this is the sort of event which shakes everyone up because it reminds us of our own mortality. Many south Mumbai citizens visit hotels like the Taj and the Oberoi frequently . It could easily have been you or me ( or one of our family members or friends) trapped in the hotel. “ There, but for the grace of God, go I” is what many of us are likely to experience.

In the past, this sort of traumatic event would be experienced by a few hundred people and others would only learn about it second-hand, through the newspapers. Today, however, thanks to the electronic media, this sort of event affects all of us much more directly . All of us have been glued to our TV screens and have been watching scenes of the gore being replayed 24/7. This has a direct visceral impact and can cause fear, helplessness or horror . In some people, this emotional impact can result in a type of anxiety disorder, called PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Most people who witness such events have a brief period of difficulty adjusting and coping after which they bounce back to normal and life carries on as usual. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder.

It's normal to have a wide range of feelings after such an event, and these include fear and anxiety, a lack of focus, sadness, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, or bouts of crying that come easily. You may have recurrent nightmares or thoughts about the event. This doesn't mean you have post-traumatic stress disorder. But if you have these disturbing feelings for more than a month, if they're severe or if you feel you're having trouble getting your life back under control, consider talking to your doctor .

The diagnosis is based on a thorough psychological evaluation; and you must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association . Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder usually includes both medications and psychotherapy and will help you regain a sense of control over your life.

Getting support and help – either from friends, relatives , spiritual leaders or your doctor can help prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into post-traumatic stress disorder.

Self-management. Yoga and meditation can help you manage your feelings much better. These are useful skills to learn !
Take care of yourself. Get enough rest, eat a balanced diet, exercise and take time to relax. Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can worsen anxiety.
Don't self-medicate. Turning to alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings isn't healthy, even though it may be a tempting way to cope. It can lead to more problems down the road and prevent real healing.
Break the cycle. When you feel anxious, take a brisk walk or find a hobby to immerse yourself in.
Talk to someone. Stay connected with supportive and caring family, friends, or your guru. Just sharing time with loved ones can offer healing and comfort.

If you’d like to learn more about PTSD and what you can do to help yourself, please do come to HELP ( Health Education Library for People, Excelsior Business Center, National Insurance Building, Ground Floor, Near Excelsior Cinema, 206, Dr.D.N Road, Mumbai 400001 Tel. No.:65952393/65952394, www.healthlibrary.com). We have lots of very useful information on PTSD and how to prevent this !
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