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How to Cope with Terrorism-Related Anxiety

How to Cope with Terrorism-Related Anxiety
(Copyright AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 14 June 2016 03:02 PM

The massive amount of emotion that accompanies tragedies such as this week’s massacre in Orlando impacts not only people directly connected to the victims, but can also strongly affect strangers thousands of miles away. Such stress can be overwhelming, and traumatizing as well, a top expert says.

“Many people, when they see an event like this, may identify with the victims and as soon as that happens, the impact on our emotions can as stressful and traumatic as if we witnessed it ourselves,” Dr. David Kaplan tells Newsmax Health.

According to Kaplan, people become frightened because of their perception that these attacks, such as this latest one in Florida, were rare before, but are becoming more and more frequent.  But this is simply not the case, says Kaplan, chief professional officer at the American Counseling Association in Alexandria, Va.

The U.S. has always had a history of violent events, but their impact is felt sharper and more widely now, than in the days when we didn’t have social media or the internet to spread it around, says Kaplan. 

“One of the things I did today was look up school killings and I was astounded by the length of the list that came up, and the fact that they went back to the 1800s. The difference was that people didn’t know about them,” says Kaplan.

The type of catastrophic event also makes a difference, he notes.

“Tragedies that are man-made engender more fear than natural disasters.  When it’s nature, there isn’t a motive, but when it’s man-made, it’s worse, because somebody did it intentionally,” he says. 

Such tragedies are magnified today by the intense media coverage surrounding them, notes Kaplan.

“People who watch news 24/7 experience these traumatic events as happening over and over and over, and studies show they tend to overestimate their likelihood. This leads to anxiety, sleeplessness, drinking, depression – all of the possible emotional problems anyone could have,” Kaplan adds.

This is even worse when there is the suggestion of terrorism, such as in this case, because the alleged shooter is believed to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before the attack. 

“This brings up a whole ‘us versus them mentality,” especially people watch the event over and over on television,” Kaplan notes.

The fact that this event fell in the middle of the presidential campaign is also contributing to the media saturation – and feeding the fear and anxiety, notes Kaplan.

“From a psychological perspective, politicians of all persuasions know the best way to get votes is to drum up fear, and then suggest that fear can be alleviated by voting for them.” 

Kaplan suggests these coping strategies:

•    Limit the time you watch television news.  Set a timer and limit watching the TV news to 10 minutes. Then read, go for a walk, or do something else. When it comes to small children, eliminate TV news altogether.

•    Use your thought processes to control your feelings.  If you feel frightened, ask yourself what is the probability of an attack happening to you or occurring in your town. There are millions of people in the U.S., and many, many towns. An incident could occur, but the probability is very, very small.

•    Take concrete action. One reason people get anxious is that they feel powerless to help. Do something helpful - give blood, volunteer for the Red Cross, find out through local organizations how you can help. Donating money is also helpful, but studies show that giving of your time is more therapeutic.

•    If you believe the emotional impact you are feeling is interfering with your daily life, seek help. The American Counseling Association keeps a listing of qualified professional counselors throughout the country and can be reached at through its website.

© 2019 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

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The fear and anxiety that surrounds terrorist-related attacks such as this week's massacre in Orlando can lead people even living far away to become engulfed in fear, anxiety and depression, but a top expert offers tips on how to cope.
fear, anxiety, terrorism, Orlando
Tuesday, 14 June 2016 03:02 PM
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