Watching a Lot of Traumatic News Jacks PTSD Risk

Poll follows Boston Marathon attack

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 15, 2013 10:20 AM CST

(Newser) – It may be possible to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder without actually being present for a traumatic event, researchers say: Watching a lot of media coverage may heighten the risk of the disorder. Researchers surveyed 4,675 Americans two to four weeks after the Boston Marathon attack. About 4.5% of those polled had symptoms of "high acute stress," the Los Angeles Times reports. The best predictor of such symptoms: having watched media coverage of the bombings for six or more hours a day.

Having direct exposure to the attacks was also a good predictor, with "direct exposure" being defined as having been at the scene or close to someone who was. Direct exposure to the 9/11 attacks or Sandy Hook shootings also boosted the likelihood of symptoms. But media exposure remained a more powerful predictor. A direct cause-and-effect relationship isn't clear, the Times notes, but researchers suggest that watching a lot of coverage may be a problem for people predisposed to PTSD. "People who are most distressed in the aftermath of such an event are probably more likely to engage media coverage as a way of coping," the scientists note. "Repeated media-based re-exposures may contribute to a self-perpetuating cycle of distress."

Watching large amounts of media coverage of a traumatic event may boost the risk of PTSD.
Watching large amounts of media coverage of a traumatic event may boost the risk of PTSD.   (Shutterstock)
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