Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sleepless in America Remembering 9/11

Today is the 10th anniversary when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:46 a.m. A moment of silence spread across America and around the world as we remember those that lost their lives. Obama read a psalm and family members began reading the victims names. It is an extremely emotional day and hard to believe 10 years have already passed, as for many, it feels like yesterday. We should not only remember those that have passed but those that have survived this violent disaster. Many disaster survivors who lost loved ones experience guilt, regret, profound sadness and/or helplessness. Their grief and sorrow can cause severe stress symptoms that lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and depression.

[caption id="attachment_1564" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Remember 9/11 - The New 9/11 Memorial New York City"][/caption]

Survivors with PTSD often reexperience this terrifying moment with memories, nightmares and flashbacks. They sometimes dissociate themselves from the outside world, abuse drugs to avoid memories, suffer from panic attack, show periods of extreme rage, have trouble sleeping or are severely depressed. Besides those that have lost loved ones, those that felt their life was in danger, saw the destruction, were a part of the rescue mission, witnessed death and dismembered human bodies and those exposed to contamination, as a result of the buildings collapsing, can also be afflicted with this disorder. In addition to mental health problems they may be at risk to develop physical complications including cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, insomnia, autoimmune diseases ad musculoskeletal conditions.

How do survivors reduce their risk of PTSD and other psychological or physical disorders? They need to keep a journal of their symptoms including; nightmares, flashbacks, extreme emotions, trouble sleeping and or having trouble with family and/or work, drug or alcohol abuse and if they feel these symptoms are temporary or chronic. Keep a list of all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and herbal supplement/vitamins they may be taking. Discuss what type of treatment they feel they need. Some find that talking to a counselor is helpful or taking yoga or meditation classes, while others with physical or mental complications may need a professional health care specialist. Their journal, medication list and a physical exam will help their physician diagnosis and treat their condition(s).

[caption id="attachment_1565" align="alignright" width="221" caption="10,000 9/11 Witnesses Suffer from PTSD"][/caption]

Their doctor may treat their PTSD with prescription drugs, alternative therapy or a combination of both. Therapy may include group or single sessions with a psychiatrist using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that helps them recognize positive ways of thinking or cognitive patterns in negative or inaccurate situations. CBT often is used along with a behavioral therapy called exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a technique that helps people safely face situations they find frightening and learn to cope with them. For example, some therapists have used virtual reality programs for those that have come back from Iraq with PTSD called “Virtual Iraq”. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy used in correlation with exposure therapy where a series of guided eye movements help them process traumatic memories. CBT therapies help them gain control of the fear they endure from this violent disaster. Medication alone or with therapy are usually used when other problems are related to the event such as depression, insomnia, anxiety or alcohol/drug abuse. Another alternative approach that has been proven helpful is acupuncture. There is still research that needs to be done to fully understand how effective and safe acupuncture is as a treatment for PTSD, but talk to their doctor if you think they would be interested in this method to helping them overcome their disorder.

When someone you love has PTSD it can not only affect them it can also affect you, the caregiver. The term “compassion fatigue” is used for those close to a person with PTSD and they show signs of helplessness and depression. Going through the trauma that lead your loved one to PTSD can be extremely painful for you and you may find yourself avoiding their attempts to talk about their experience or because you feel hopeless or guilty because you can’t heal them.

In order to take care of yourself and your loved one, it's critical that you make your own mental health a priority. Eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep. However they choose to get support and help may also help prevent you from turning to unhealthy coping methods, such as alcohol use.

[caption id="attachment_1566" align="alignright" width="300" caption="9/11 Cartoonist Remembers"][/caption]

On this day many recollect the events like Bronx resident Miguel Flores, 37, who was among dozens of paramedic units who charged toward the burning towers. He arrived just as the South Tower crumbled and helped set up a triage unit to help separate the dead from the dying. He said he lost 13% of his lung capacity when a dust cloud enveloped the site. Ten years later, he has physically recovered, he said.

"It's a numbing feeling," he said. "Being back here, you start to relive that a little. We all have dealt with post-traumatic stress." So remember, if your loved one is suffering from PTSD their main concern should be their health and making them feel they are able to go on with their life.

More about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy see: Insomnia Meaning and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT

The content provided in Sleepless in America Remembering 9/11 is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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