Watching News Coverage of Paris Attacks May Take Toll On Viewers

This weekend, the world watched in shock as terrible events unfolded in Paris. The terrorist attacks left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more wounded after a shootout in a popular restaurant in the city, multiple explosions near the Stade de France national stadium and a massacre at the Bataclan concert hall.

While survivors, witnesses and first responders of such violent events often struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — which involves reliving traumatic events as if they were happening again through flashbacks, dreams and severe emotional distress or physical reactions to reminders of the event — viewing images and videos of these violent events through news coverage and social media can affect people who weren’t there in similar ways.

“Though we often focus on PTSD, there is a range of psychological responses to traumatic events,” Dr. Robert Ursano, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters, told CBS News.

Experiencing the event either in person, through a family member or close friend or by repeated close exposure (such as by first responders or police investigators) is needed for a PTSD diagnosis, but repeated viewing of the events can still have a profound effect on mental health.

People who weren’t there may still experience responses like depression and generalized anxiety disorder, as well as psychological distress, which includes sleep disturbances, desire to stay at home and avoidance of reminders of the trauma, Ursano explained. Increased alcohol and tobacco use are also common psychological responses to traumatic events.

Read more at CBS News.

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