Research Paper The devastation of September 11

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Klajdi Selimaj


Research Paper
The devastation of September 11th on mental health

September 11th of 2001. This is a date that changed America, in a physiological and a psychological way. Most of the psychiatrists [if not all] would agree that a lot of people got mentally sick after the attack. Although there were a lot of people who died on 9/11, and more who suffered different kinds of illnesses from the attack, a significant impact was an increase in mental disorders. Concentrating on the psychological affects of 9/11, I should say that people changed a hundred and eighty degrees. It was a huge shock to overcome. For someone who lived the attack, that day would have been [if not the worst] one of the worst days of his life.

People increased drinking after the attack of 9/11 to either “forget” or to “numb” their pain. “They would numb themselves out” as Dr. Robert mentions in his interview. Some people may not have been in position to face such a tragedy. With alcohol being advertised in so many common areas, it would be hard to resist it after a disaster like that. Hannah K. Knudsen (and others) from the University of Georgia wrote an article about the alcohol consumption after 9/11. In their paper they show data from psychological experiments and explain what are the common reasons for this action. No wander why people started drinking more. Living such a nightmare, who would want to think about it. But the question is “How can you be sober and not think about it?”

Another subject that was affected by the attack of 9/11 was the companies around the United States and their employees. Kristin Bryton and Suzanne Peterson from Georgia State University wrote an article, about the consequences of September 11th in big companies. Bryton and Peterson show the connections between employment stressors and post traumatic fear, and they research how people felt insecure after 9/11.

Two of the many psychological effects of that day was the future oriented thinking of people and the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). E. Alison Holman and Roxane C. Silver from the University of California explain about how people were affected by the attack of 9/11 and their fear of their future. Or as they call it; “the future anxiety (FA)”(Holman and Silver 391). One of the many changes in people's lives, was their ways of thinking about their future.

I interviewed a psychologist from New York City, Dr. Mark Roberts, PhD. He explains in great details the psychological aspects of mental illness and how they were influenced by 9/11. Dr. Roberts showed some examples of people's behaviors before and after the attack, and how people came closer to each other during such grave danger.

Hannah K. Knudsen, Paul M. Roman, J. Aaron Johnson and Lori J. Ducharme from the University of Georgia wrote a research article about the changes in America after 9/11. From their experiments' data they found “a significant increase in the number of depressive symptoms reported during the four weeks after the attacks” (Knudsen266). Some of these symptoms were Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also known as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other more.

Several studies reveal that residents of” New York City in comparison with the general population of the U.S. developed more symptoms of PTSD”(Knudsen262). So depending on how far people are from the area, they would have different levels of these symptoms. From Kudsen's experiment people reported sadness, trouble in falling asleep, loneliness, and trouble in concentration. Kudsen and her associates also suggest that these symptoms are associated with people's increased consumption of alcohol. They found more such actions related to residents around the World Trade Center area. With all that huge cloud of dust above the World Trade Center, the noise from the buildings' collapse, and everything else that was going on at that time, how could anyone make themselves stop thinking about it? Thirteen percent of the participants reported an increased alcohol consumption, usage of non-prescribed medications, and other drugs. To prevent themselves from thinking, people would drink or use medication. They studies found that the depression was two times greater than the level generally recognized as normal, and that people were taking more psychiatric medication (13% of the experiment's participants from national data).


After 9/11 some people were afraid to go to work. People who worked around the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, or the airline companies had difficulty in returning to work. Others who worked big companies, or high buildings were also affected by 9/11. Byrton and Peterson say that depending on their co-worker's support people would deal with their trauma easier. “Similarly, in a recent study of survivors or the Oklahoma City bombing individuals who had more supportive co-workers were less likely to have PTSD symptoms. ... Therefore, we propose that employees who believe that they have more supportive co-workers will experience less psychological strain after September 11, 2001.”[] They may be right. From a psychological point of view if an individual has supportive people around him/her it is more likely that they will overcome their problems.

Byrton and Peterson do not argue the fact that 9/11 had a deep impact on people's minds. For Byrton and Peterson a “large-scale traumatic even include events such as natural disasters, industrial accidents, and most salient today, terrorist attacks.”[] Their studies found that seventy percent of the participants admitted that “they had cried as a result of the attack,”[] and seventy one percent were feeling depression, anxiety, and fear symptoms, for the following weeks and months.


Yet the problem does not stop there. People became more fearful of their future. E. Alison Holman and Roxane Cohen Silver from University of California suggest that future oriented thinking changed significantly after September 11, 2001. They define that “future oriented thinking can involve negative thoughts (fears about the future)that may ultimately have a detrimental impact on overall mental and physical health over time.( Holman&Roxane)” People were more afraid of death or future terrorist attacks. Holman and Silver's studies showed that people developed PTSD and other depressive symptoms. The participants answered that they felt distant from their own emotions, had nightmares, and avoided thoughts of the events. Undoubtably, people changed the way they thought about their future.

On fear of future terrorism, seventy two percent of individuals who participated in the research answered “ I worry that an act of terrorism will personally affect me or someone in my family in the future” (Holman and Silver). There were also data that depending on the distance from where the attacks took place and the level of education, the levels of impact were varied. The more educated, and farther away from WTC or the Pentagon the individual is, the better it is for him/her to deal with the situation. As they explain in more details “More educated individuals and those who lived over 100 miles from the WTC reported lower levels of fear of future terrorism than did responders who were less well educated and those who lived within 100 miles of the WTC.”


According to Dr. Mark Roberts anxiety, fear, and panic disorder are some major mental illness which were developed by 9/11 survivors. After the attack some people would “fear airplane sound and freeze, which they never did that before” (Dr. Roberts interview). They would say“isn't that plane flying kind of low?” “People became very sensitive to each other and realized the preciousness of human life. People's psychological traumas increased. People did not feel safe. “Safety is an internal part of mental stability. If you do not feel safe, you will have anxiety and and depression” (Dr. Roberts interview). But from then to now things have changed. People then felt disbelief. They were shocked, thinking as “this can't be happening”. Then they had low self-esteem, but now they feel sad. As time goes by people close into themselves. They become more selfish in a way to concentrate on themselves. Although as he says “it is not that we forget 9/11. It is that we forget about impermanence and we need to remember that.”(Dr. Roberts interview)


The date of September 11, 2001 will stay in the memory of humanity, but more specifically in the of America. It was a day that humanity faced evil. For the ones that lost families and friends, or others that faced the terror that day, the day of September 11 will not be forgotten. Some people developed psychological problems. Some increased alcohol or drug consumption. Some had difficulties to return to work after that day. Some were forced to change the way they live. For some of them, that day was they biggest trauma that they had ever developed in their lives. What we can say for certain is that 9/11 brought a lot of depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorders. Thousands of lives were taken away, and thousands were destroyed. Let us all hope that it will never happen again, that no one should ever face such a tragedy again in their lives.


  • Byron, Kristin, and Peterson, Suzanne. “The Impact of a Large-Scale Traumatic Event on Individual and Organizational Outcomes: Exploring Employee and Company Reactions to September 11, 2001” Journal of Organizational Behavior Dec. 2002: 895-910 Academic Search Premier JSTOR. LaGuardia Community College Library, Long Island City, NY. April 1st, 2008 <>.

  • Holman, E. Alison, and Silver, Roxane Cohen. “Future-Oriented Thinking and Adjustment in a Nationwide Longitudinal Study Following the September Terrorist Attacks” Motivation and Emotions Dec. 2005: Vol.29, No 4 Academic Search Premier EBSCOHost. LaGuardia Community College Library, Long Island City, NY. April 1st, 2008 <>.

  • Knudsen, Hannah K.; Roman, Paul M.; Johnson, Aaron J.; and Ducharme, Lori J. “A Changed America? The Effects of September 11th on Depressive Symptoms and Alcohol Consumption” Journal of Health and Social Behavior Sep. 2005: 260-273 Academic Search Premier JSTOR. LaGuardia Community College Library, Long Island City, NY. April 1st, 2008 <>.

  • Roberts, Mark. PhD, Personal Interview. April 15th, 2008.

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