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The Case Against Watching 9/11 TV Coverage

Watching replays of 9/11 is neither healing nor cathartic.

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, countless television channels will be airing replays of the traumatic events of that day. It is in your best interests, both emotionally and psychologically, to not watch that coverage.

When you watch disturbing events such as 9/11 on television, you can experience feelings of anxiety, despair, panic...all while just sitting in your living room. You feel a sense of helplessness because you are witnessing events that you are not able to control or help resolve. Ten years after the fact, watching repeated television coverage of the planes hitting the towers, people falling from buildings can trigger that feeling of helplessness.

If you were directly involved in the events of 9/11, watching repeated television coverage may cause flashbacks - experiencing feelings and events just like you are back there again.In a study by Ahern, et al. (2004), people who viewed more television images of the attacks in the seven days after 9/11 had a higher probability of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The people who viewed the most television images had 2.32 times greater odds of probable PTSD. The authors wrote, "Television may merit consideration as a potential exposure to a traumatic event."

Not only do adults experience feelings of trauma from viewing 9/11 events on television, children also experience these feelings. In a study by Otto et al. (2007), the amount of time children spent viewing 9/11 coverage on television predicted an increased risk of PTSD symptoms. The authors wrote, "Media viewing of tragic events is sufficient to produce PTSD symptoms in vulnerable populations such as children."

You can still remember or honor the memory of the lives we lost on 9/11, and reflect on how our lives changed that day. You can be involved in a ceremony of rememberance. Doing activities such as these is cathartic and healing. Watching repeated images of that day's events is not.

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