Coping with War and Terrorism

Coping with War and Terror

The staff at the Counseling and Psychological Services is available to help the Creighton University community manage the stress and anxiety associated with war and terrorism. If you or your group needs consultation, support, outreach programming, or anything else, please give us a call at (402) 280-2733.
The following article from the National Mental Health Association may be useful towards understanding your own reactions to current events.

Understanding Your Mental Health In Times of War and Terrorism

Facing a new war and the continuing terrorist threat, Americans are experiencing many powerful emotions. For most people, the intense feelings of anxiety, sadness, grief and anger are healthy and appropriate. But some people may have a more profound and debilitating reaction to the war.
It is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to trauma and each person has his or her own tolerance level for difficult feelings. To cope with these emotions, there are some things you can do for yourself and others. Experts say that remaining engaged in our world, staying connected with people, and being optimistic about the challenges ahead are key to riding through otherwise traumatic times. In fact, in times of turmoil, people can make changes that improve their lives and life satisfaction.
Knowing what is a normal response to an abnormal situation, and what signs might indicate you have a more serious problem, will help you determine if and when to seek help from a mental health professional.

Common Responses

It is common to have difficulty managing your feelings during times of war, threat of terrorism or traumatic events. Many people will experience such symptoms as:

  • Disbelief and shock
  • Fear and anxiety about the future
  • Disorientation; difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Inability to focus
  • Apathy and emotional numbing
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sadness and depression
  • Feeling powerless
  • Extreme changes in eating patterns; loss of appetite or overeating
  • Crying for "no apparent reason"
  • Headaches and stomach problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive use of alcohol and drugs

Signs to Seek Help

When feelings do not go away or are so intense that they impair your ability to function in daily life, you may have a diagnosable disorder that requires mental healthcare. There are signs that can help you determine whether you are having a normal reaction to our nation’s crisis or if you’re experiencing a mental health problem. These signs include:

  • Nightmares and reoccurring thoughts about war or a traumatic event
  • Being unable to stop thinking about the war or a traumatic event
  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings or conversations that remind you of a traumatic event
  • Avoiding places or people that remind you of a traumatic event
  • Having a sense of a foreshortened future
  • Continued difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feeling jumpy or easily startled
  • Being overly concerned about safety
  • Feeling guilty, worthless or hopeless
  • Not taking pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide

If you are experiencing these symptoms, please speak with someone at the Counseling Center.

Tips for Coping

  • Talk about it. By talking with others, you can relieve stress and realize that others share your feelings.
  • Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and exercise, avoid excessive drinking and eat properly. Avoid foods that are high in calories and fat.
  • Limit exposure to images of the war. Especially avoid television news programs.
  • Do something positive. Give blood, prepare “care packages” for people in the military, write letters to service men and women. Whether you support or oppose the war, write letters to elected officials, take part in community meetings, etc.
  • Ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Talk with a trusted relative, friend or spiritual advisor. If you want professional help, please speak with someone at the Counseling and Career Development Center.

Source: The National Mental Health Association

Articles and Resources

I'm at School, My Friend's at War (David Onestak, Ph.D.)
As we approach what seems to be an almost certain conflict with Iraq, an increasing number of students approach me with their concerns about high school and college friends who have been (or may soon be) deployed for military service. These students, like the young adults of previous war-time generations, express feelings commonly associated with the trauma of military deployment (e.g., fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, etc.), with particular apprehension about what they will experience if actual combat occurs. More...

Terrorism-Preparing for the Unexpected (ARC)
Devastating acts, such as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, have left many concerned about the possibility of future incidents in the United States and their potential impact. They have raised uncertainty about what might happen next, increasing stress levels. Nevertheless, there are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected and reduce the stress that you may feel now and later should another emergency arise. More...

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Whitehouse: Homeland Security

American Red Cross

National Mental Health Association