9/11-Related PTSD Still Haunts Thousands


As we approach the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, officials say that thousands of people are still healing from the devastation of ten years ago.  According to the New York Times, ten thousand people — firefighters, police officers and civilians — who were exposed to the attacks have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Many have yet to recover.

These thousands of people suffer from nightmares, insomnia, difficulty concentrating and jitteriness.  They overreact to alarms or loud noises, and replay the events of the day over and over again in their minds.  Over the past ten years, many experts have expressed skepticism about whether the trauma of the 9/11 attacks induced PTSD in its witnesses.

“Taxpayers could end up paying for psychotherapy for Woody Allen and half of Manhattan,” said Theodore H. Frank, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Federal financing for PTSD treatment, which was mandated by a measure passed by Congress in December, is a hotly contested issue.  In the end, family members of many victims (not firefighters) were excluded.  And although at least 10,000 people have met the criteria, according to the NYT, “the city’s health department has estimated that 61,000 of the 409,000 in the disaster area experienced ‘probable’ PTSD within six years of 9/11.”

For the people still suffering from PTSD, however, accessing treatment is a necessity.  And while some see private doctors, many others cannot afford the combination of anti-depressants and psychotherapy that a doctor would prescribe.  The money for treatment may decline if doctors determine that there is a link between certain cancers and 9/11.

Some question why 9/11 seems to have affected New York’s residents so deeply.  Charles Figley, a professor and author of a book on Vietnam War veterans, says that it’s because they are reminded of the event daily.”

“It’s the places you see every day, where you proposed to your wife, where you remember getting the news that you got promoted, where your young children played,” he told the NYT.  ”You go into a combat zone and then you leave.  You don’t leave home. You return all the time.”

One wonders what the people who live in places that are routinely exposed to violence feel — do they all have undiagnosed PTSD?  Or was 9/11 more traumatic because New Yorkers expected their city to be immune to such violence?  Either way, it’s crucial that people who need treatment receive it — and that bickering over the definition of PTSD doesn’t stand in their way.

Related Stories:

The Love of a Good Dog: Service Dogs for PTSD

Report Says Pentagon’s Psychological Services Are Dysfunctional

PTSD Awareness Day June 27, 2011

Photo from anjci via flickr.


Nessie B.
Nessie B6 years ago

There are many people who were not even in NY who remain traumatised by the events of 9/11. There are people all over the world who watched the towers collaspe knowing that a loved one was going down with the buildings. At the time, the restaurant at the top, Windows on the World, was hosting an international meeting.
PTSD is real, and the people who suffer from it as a result of 9/11, should received the help they need. Please.

Alpa Patel
Alpa P6 years ago

I was in WTC from 8-8:20 am on Sept. 11th. I was in the lobby with my father in Tower 2. We came out from the train. It was a normal day and we both did our normal routines talked at the lobby and say hello to people and said goodbye to each other. We were both spared from the attacks because we were both in different locations not at WTC during the attacks, but not too far from the WTC. The timing was the key because we would have been in WTC around 8:30 -9am,but that day we rushed to Manhattan. I did not see the towers get hit, but I smelled the smoke from the Brooklyn Bridge after the attacks. It changed my life because I struggled with health issues, other issues, and fear. I hit rock bottom that time. I became a different person with problems. Many days I would cry or feel ill during these 10 years. I slowly came back and became stronger because of my family, health professionals, friends, God, and other great people who supported me in my darkest times. I shared my story with women who have problems due to wars, not having support from others, health issues, rape, and such. Since 9-11 I have done a lot of social work for animals, environment, advocacy, poor, signed petitions that helped passed laws, volunteering at the temple, and more. I said to myself that I will fight back evil through good services. I prayed every year since 9-11 that bin Laden be punished. I was very happy when I heard he was shot by the Navy Seals. I learned I am so much stronger than I thought.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Connie Kirkpatrick
Past Member 6 years ago

PTSD is recoverable, but the time it takes can be forever. I am amazed at the concept of someone not believing this or commenting about those who live with PTSD.

The process to recover begins with desire, willingness, and dogged determination, then ignore those who do not understand. The ol' pull yourself up by the bootstraps comments. If only it were that easy. My bootstraps broke so many times they cannot be repaired so I tossed the boots. :)

Blessings all.

Kathy S.
Kathy S6 years ago

EMDR is THE most tested and proven effective therapy for treating PTSD and yet many don't know about it and some of the VA hospitals that deal with the largest volume of PTSD cases don't even offer it. If you, or someone you love, suffers from PTSD, try to find a practicing EMDR therapist in your area. You can search on http://www.emdria.org/ for licensed therapists. If you want to learn more about it, I highly recommend Francine Shapiro's book, EMDR: The Breakthrough "Eye Movement" Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma

Angelbin C.
Angela N6 years ago

@Suzanne H.: I absolutely agree with you, Suzanne. It is a downright shame. It has been learned that many a soldier's PTSD only starts to show after 15 years, meaning it is a ticking bomb that suddenly goes off after years in many cases as I read in a report of the British Ministry of Defence. The same counts for everyone involved in 9/11.
There are countless people, firemen especially and policemen, who have become sick from the toxines they have inhaled during there tremendous work back then and it is absolutely disgraceful that they are struggling to get their doctors' and hospital bills paid, not to mention disabilty allowances.
... it this the American way? First letting their people do their jobs under the Stars and Stripes flags and then let them down?

Dan Holoman
Dan Holoman6 years ago

9/11 trauma should be salved somewhat w/Osama bin Laden's death, and the country that he launched the atrocious mission from has been bombed back to the stone ages. The Afghan's beat the Soviets so bad he bankrupted the nation -- with our help and instruction and creation of Osama. Seems he learned well and pulled the same stunt with US; basically we're bankrupt!! So did we "win"?

Siusaidh C.
Susan C6 years ago

Quite a few Iraqis also suffer from PTSD. One is my best friend, who fled Baghdad just before US bombs started falling and only survived by climbing over some mountains into Turkey where his whole family spent years in a refugee camp. Why is it that, so often, only Americans seem to matter?

Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams6 years ago

So sad...

Suzanne H.
Suzanne H6 years ago

If this is how PTSD is handled on American soil, after an American tragedy.............I feel very sad for our troups as they come home.................American voter's hire these yahoos in Congress to look after Americans in need................PTSD will haunt society for decades............Raise Your Voice!