After being glued to the TV, transfixed by social network updates and in a perpetual state of prayer for the safety of Boston residents and law enforcement last week, many of us are feeling emotionally drained in the wake of the marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt.
Such tragedies and shocking news events are not only beyond stressful for those involved, but they can also impact those of us who are observing from afar. Plus, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we’re bombarded with emotionally-charged images and graphic descriptions in today’s 24/7 news cycle.
I sat down with media psychiatrist and bestselling author Dr. Carole Lieberman to discuss the emotional impact of last week’s gruesome events – and how we can begin to move forward from here.
Kinetic Fix: There seems to be an uptick in these horrendous acts in our society; would you hazard a guess as to why?
Dr. Carole Lieberman: The world definitely seems to be spinning out of control with more violence than ever. There are many reasons for this, including desperate people wanting their 15 minutes of fame, copy cat crimes, a bad economy that’s dragging on for too long, violent media (especially violent video games), children being raised in single parent homes, and increased stress in general.
What kinds of feelings are normal after an event such as the Boston bombings?
People will feel anxiety, depression, insomnia, a desire to stuff themselves with comfort food, and so on.
The psychological impact of the Boston Marathon terror attack is to trigger the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is still laying dormant in us from 9/11. The similarities between the Boston attack and 9/11 trigger our memories. These similarities include there being two bomb blasts in mid-city with buildings crashing on top of people and people running in a panic on an otherwise beautiful sunny day. On top of this, the ricin letters are triggering our memories of the anthrax letters that followed soon after 9/11.
At what point should we consider seeking help from a doctor?
If your symptoms last more than two weeks, or if it is interfering significantly with functioning well in work and family settings, you should consider seeing a mental health professional for psychotherapy and, in some cases, medication.
What are some steps we can take to alleviate our feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness, etc.?
There are many things you can do to alleviate these symptoms, such as spending more time with your family and friends, going to religious services, volunteering to help people who are less fortunate and spending time in nature.
Finally, what would your recommendation be to those of us who may feel as though we are losing our faith in humanity?
It’s easy to lose one’s faith in humanity after reading one violent headline after another and feeling like the world is filled with evil people. The antidote to this is surrounding yourself with people who have a lot of humanity, such as people involved in your church or those who are volunteering to help the less fortunate.