Bostonians Face Anxiety, Difficulty Sleeping — the Fallout of Living in Lockdown

Apr 19, 2013 3:21pm
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A police officer evacuates a shoeless man holding a child as members of law enforcement conduct a search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, April 19, 2013, in Watertown, Mass. (Image credit: Matt Rourke/AP)

As law enforcement officials comb the streets of Boston in search Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings Monday,  the city’s residents  try their best to cope with the added stress of living in lockdown.

Anxiety and disrupted sleep could be  part of the fallout for Bostonians,  experts say.

“If you’re in Boston and you’re close to the center of it, the greater the danger [of  symptoms],” said Jeff Magill, project coordinator for Behavioral Health Emergency Management at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Shut in their homes, watching live coverage of the manhunt, some people, even those not physically near the bombing or the dragnet, can experience post-traumatic stress, Magill said.

“Post-traumatic stress is a typical, normal reaction,” said Magill. “You [may] see some change in your ability to adapt or be just a little bit more edgy or having more mood swings than you had before. … Those things generally subside over a couple days and couple of weeks.”

Magill said it was  important to keep a normal sleep routine and find support from family, friends or even pets.

“Sometimes pets can be best listeners in our lives.  They can give us a way to vent,” said Magill.

Alan Hilfer, the chief psychologist at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., said  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s arrest could be “a very cathartic event” for those still reeling from Monday’s bombing.

“Once they catch him, a large number of people will be able to relax and feel much safer,” said Hilfer. “[It] will absolutely result in some people being able to take a breath and say, ‘I can be more relaxed, and I can resume my normal daily life.”

Magill said that for many, having the a suspect still at large just adds to the trauma.

“We take comfort knowing that individuals responsible are in captivity. It makes us feel safer,” said Magill. “The event isn’t over until the suspect is in custody.”

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