PTSD May Strike Bostonians in Bombing, Lockdown Aftermath


King's friend Taraq Abdallat was walking in Watertown to another friend's house for dinner shortly after the "shelter in place" order was lifted when he heard the gunfire exchange between the police and the alleged bomber. The pop of gunfire was so close that Abdallat feared for his life and hustled to get indoors.

Abdallat, who is originally from Jordan, described the experience as devastating.

"I can't feel secure the same way I used to before these terrible things happened. I don't feel secure in my hometown anymore," he said.

Studies find that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the highest percentage of both short- and long-term psychological disturbances were reported by people closest to the attacks with a progressively smaller percentage of people reporting disturbances the farther away they were from the attacks.

Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York said many Boston residents might react differently because ubiquitous access to texting, Twitter and other forms of instantaneous communication might have given them a feeling of control, or "empowerment."

"Even with lockdown, people were fully engaged and aware of what was going on electronically, soothing each other, informing and also ... searching their own photos and videos to try to help the FBI. They were scared and traumatized, but there was also an informed calmness," he said.

Manevitz said he believed social media may be transforming the way we respond to catastrophic events. Social media, he said, allows people to feel less isolated. Although it can be the source of rumors and misinformation, it can also, he said, help people stay calm.

The Boston events in particular allowed the public to watch the results of the government's efforts unfold in real time, which many people found comforting, Manevitz said. Also, because the government directly appealed to the public for assistance, many people felt useful even if they weren't directly involved in the search for the bombers.

But Manevitz said Boston residents still needed to be vigilant in monitoring stress and other psychological symptoms. He recommended avoiding the endless news cycle and having open, honest discussions about feelings with friends, family and loved ones, especially children. And if symptoms become unmanageable, he recommended seeking professional help.

As for King, he said he felt shaky for a few days but said he must move on with his life.

"I was a little nervous on Saturday but by Sunday the streets were crowded again and people were in the park playing soccer and softball. I'm not having second thoughts about moving to Boston," he said.

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