Terrorism sows stress across the world

The September 11 terrorist attacks in America, with the repeated television images of the disaster, are affecting people all over the world with feelings of fear and vulnerability, a leading Greek psychiatrist said yesterday. No country is far from the events. Seeing the television images of the planes flying into the twin towers in Manhattan, which are repeated continually, combined with the brain’s malleability – its ability to change on the basis of stimuli – we cease to be the same people we were, said Giorgos Christodoulou, professor of psychiatry at Athens University. We change and we realize that no one is safe. The repercussions are real, with feelings of insecurity, anxiety, a sense of a lack of permanence and a need to flee from the incident and from the threat. The most severe result of a catastrophic event is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition which could become chronic if not treated in time. Symptoms include a need for isolation, repeated nightmares focusing on the catastrophe, flashbacks of the event, avoiding situations reminding one of the incident (such as avoiding high buildings and airplanes), moodiness, and lack of productivity at work. A high-risk group for this disorder is made up of people who felt great stress immediately after the disaster, with symptoms lasting three or four days and including hyperactivity, becoming introverted, sadness, despair, anxiety and a lack of orientation. Christodoulou was speaking at a news conference held in view of today’s World Mental Health Day. He described Greeks’ mental health as unstable because of recent war in Kosovo, the threat of changing borders, the stock market drop and unemployment. Asked about the freezing of funds suspected of being used by terrorists, Papantoniou said the matter was secret but added that Greece cooperates very closely with the European Commission and the United States in monitoring bank accounts, stock market investment codes and other capital flows that may be connected to individuals considered terrorist suspects.

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