Dealing with PTSD As A Result of 9/11

Leigh Richardson, NCC, LPC, BCN, BCB

Clinical Director and Founder/The Brain Performance Center - AdvisoryCloudTM

It has been almost 2 decades since the September 11 attacks, but there are a lot of people who are still dealing with all the effects of that dreadful day. Many people around the world were impacted by the attacks, and those in New York City will always remember that day.

For some people, it is hard dealing with PTSD as a result of the September 11th attacks. It is something that will stick in the minds of many people for years and years, and some for the rest of their life. No matter how hard they try, it seems to never fully go away.

What makes it so difficult?

Even if a person did not live in New York City at the time, there were plenty of videos from that day that show just how painful it was. People were falling to their death as they had no other option stuck in high rises with no way out. It was one of the most exasperating feelings a person could deal with, because it was a hopeless situation. There was no way to help these individuals, and they had to make lose-lose decisions.

Obviously, those people who died made the ultimate sacrifice. With that being said, PTSD is a very real thing for a lot of people who witnessed all of this happen in real-time. Just walking by certain parts of town can trigger emotions that are hard to get rid of. It seems like so much has changed in New York City over the years, but there are still a lot of vivid memories. No one can just tell their brain to forget all of that.

Those who lived closest were most affected.

It comes as no surprise that those people who lived closest to the attacks were the ones who are most affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. It happened early during the day, and not everyone was at work. People who are still at home woke up to chaos, and it would not be the same for several weeks after the attack. It is one thing to just work in the area, but those people who call that part of New York City home felt the after-effects a little more.

The air was left polluted for quite a while after the attack, a lingering effect that so many people still can remember to this day. The city smelled a little different, and there was a huge gap in the city skyline. No matter how hard a person might be trying to block out the past, it was something that really was hard to deal with.

Relief workers saw too much to forget.

After the attacks, relief workers were pulled from all over the country to help out as much as possible. However, it was those relief workers at the very beginning who are most likely to feel PTSD. Some relief workers were heroes, saving some people, but still there is the regret of not saving more. There was only so much people could do during the time, but there is still a level of regret some people face.

Then, there is of course all the vivid imagery that can't be erased from the head. Going into crumbled areas, trying to find humans who were still alive. This meant coming across people who died instantly, and even the most trained relief workers have a hard time dealing with all of that.  If even reading this is stressing you out, don’t ignore what you are feeling. Don’t try to use the line, “that was 20 years ago I am over it”.  Maybe you are and maybe you are not.

Seeking out help.

The focus on PTSD wasn't always there for those affected by the September 11 attacks, as the focus was on helping as many people improve their physical health. However, mental health has been focused on over the last few years as more and more people attempt to address their PTSD.

In New York City, there are a number of therapists who specialize in helping people with anxiety orders. They understand specifically how much of an impact September 11 made on millions of people in the area. Not everyone is suffering through PTSD, but more people need to come forward and address what is really bothering them.

Some people were forced to move away from the city just to get away from the memories. Others were displaced because they had no other option, as maybe their work or even their apartment building was completely gone. There are a lot of people dealing with PTSD on a daily basis, and witnessing one of the largest terrorist attacks ever can be very tough for a person to fully comprehend.

New York has not forgotten but has wrapped their arms around what happened.  The 9/11 Memorial & Museum serves as a resource and information source for both families and individuals that want to learn more.  On 9/11 you may want to visit