D.C. Sniper Attacks Left Some With PTSD

Study found 7 percent of area residents at risk for PTSD

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 23, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The 2002 sniper attacks that terrorized residents of Washington, D.C., left some with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a government study finds.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 1,205 area residents about six months after the three-week sniper spree ended in October 2002. Two men were later arrested and convicted of 13 attacks that left 10 people dead.

The researchers found that about 7 percent of residents reported enough symptoms to suggest they were at risk for PTSD.

Women who lived within five miles of one of the shootings were more than four times more likely to report elevated levels of traumatic stress than women who lived farther from the crime scenes. There was no such association found in men.

More than a third of the respondents said they stayed home more than usual during the sniper attacks, and 45 percent reported that they went to public spaces (such as parks and shopping centers) less often during that time.

In addition, 5.5 percent of people who work outside of the home said they missed at least one day of work due to the sniper attacks.

The findings were in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Documenting individual responses to this kind of crisis provides clues on how best to help people recover after a terror-causing ordeal, said psychiatrist and study author Jeffrey Schulden.

"We're providing some information to people and primary-care providers around what is the expected range of psychological and behavioral responses and when does that push over the edge to where you might want to involve a mental health professional specifically, or seek further help," he said.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about PTSD.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Aug. 22, 2006
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