Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior Editor
To the Editor: Dr Schlenger and colleagues1 report an association between television viewing of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 1 to 2 months later. It is significant that a large number of individuals exposed only through the media appear to meet criteria for PTSD. To diagnose PTSD, the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) requires that a person "experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others."2 On September 11 and during the days afterward, many television viewers may have feared that their personal safety and that of others was under threat. Insofar as such an event may provoke a subjective experience of "fear, helplessness, or horror," it fulfills the spirit of the DSM-IV definition.
Marshall RD, Galea S, Kilpatrick D. Psychiatric Consequences of September 11. JAMA. 2002;288(21):2683. doi:10.1001/jama.288.21.2683-JLT1204-1-3