The 9/11 attack was a collective shock to the nation. For some emergency workers, volunteers, and residents, the horror of that day caused a persistent psychological injury. Even a decade later, they have trouble sleeping. Fire engine or police sirens trigger panic. They recall the events they witnessed throughout the day and in their dreams. Many suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety. In short, they have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD results after a person experiences a traumatic injury or witnesses a horrific event that involved harm or death to others. Instead of processing the experience and moving on, those with PTSD may develop a heightened sense of vigilance and anxiety, or become numb and detached. Many have flashbacks or recurring nightmares.
Estimates of the number of people with 9/11-related PTSD range from 10,000 to 61,000. This large variance illustrates how difficult it is to identify and diagnose the disorder. Some people can function with PTSD, even though they are suffering. Other people with PTSD may suddenly cannot cope anymore, even years after 9/11, when they are faced with another shock, such as a death in the family or loss of a job.
Under the terms of the first 9/11 injury compensation programs, only certain emergency responders and cleanup workers were eligible for financial help for PTSD treatment. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act limits has provisions to provide treatment assistance to a broader range of eligible people with mental health problems, including PTSD, depression, anxiety or panic disorders.