INSIDE IOWA STATE
September 28, 2001
Balance is key to coping with terrorist attack
Balance is the key to bouncing back from the trauma and anxiety caused by
terrorist attacks against the United States Sept. 11. Regardless of how
personally or directly the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center
affect anyone, all individuals need to find a balance between reflecting on
what has happened and moving forward with their lives, according to Jim
Thompson, a licensed psychologist with The Richmond Center, Ames.
What is complicating most efforts at achieving balance are the method and
magnitude of the hijackings and subsequent crashes, Thompson said, because
they unleashed such a wide and intense set of emotions disbelief, sadness,
anger and anxiety about the future.
"Each of us struggles with how to deal with our strong but divergent
feelings," Thompson said. "We attempt to function somewhere between two ends
of a continuum of reactions."
At one end is the desire to simply shut down, both our daily activities and
our lives. At the other is such an eagerness to return to our old routines
that we shut out feelings and images from the attacks.
Co-workers, friends and family members need to be understanding and
supportive of each other. But when feelings and emotions are so strong that
individuals can't function as employees, students or family members,
Thompson said professional help from a counselor may be the ticket to
getting back on track. Faculty and staff can use the ISU Employee Assistance
Program for this purpose.
These symptoms are serious and might require immediate help:
Thompson said the Richmond Center has not had a noticeable increase in
requests since Sept. 11, but noted that given the number of resources,
including crisis hotlines, available in this area, people may be seeking
help through other services.
- Prolonged insomnia
- Loss of appetite
- Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
- Nightmares or flashbacks
- Panic attacks
- Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness or guilt
Human resource services director Carla Espinoza said she suspects people
still are trying to deal internally with their pain and sadness.
"I believe that as the shock wears off, people will be looking for help. Or
they will get angry and the objects of their anger may be looking for help,"
Thompson said there is neither a magic formula nor a timeline for achieving
an emotionally healthy balance.
"Generally, we tend to fare better emotionally if we emphasize reflection in
the early aftermath and then gradually and steadily look to the future as
time progresses," he said.
Thompson said some people are surprised at their emotions because they
haven't lost someone they know directly. What many feel, though, is
vulnerability and a loss of control over their lives. Feelings of confusion
and being overwhelmed are normal at this time, he said.
To schedule an initial appointment through the EAP, call 232-5811. Crisis
intervention services are available around the clock by telephoning
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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