War just one more source of stress for those in therapy

Contrary to what you might expect, people in therapy reported no difference in their stress levels once the war with Iraq started – but that may be only because war was seen as just one more stressor in chronically stressful times, according to a new survey of psychologists by the American Psychological Association Practice Directorate.From the American Psychological Association:NEW APA SURVEY SHOWS WAR JUST ONE MORE STRESS FOR ALREADY-STRESSED THERAPY PATIENTS
WASHINGTON – Contrary to what you might expect, people in therapy reported no difference in their stress levels once the war with Iraq started – but that may be only because war was seen as just one more stressor in chronically stressful times, according to a new survey of psychologists by the American Psychological Association Practice Directorate.

“We saw the same phenomenon when we took the public’s pulse after September 11, 2001,” said Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., APA’s executive director for professional practice. “Rather than seeing a spike in stress after those events, we saw that people who were not directly affected by September 11 already were living in chronic stress and the continuing fears of terrorism merely added another layer of stress. Apparently this war is having a similar effect – people are aware of it, but the anxiety of living in uncertain times already is so high that this becomes just the latest stressor.”

Although patients’ anxiety did not noticeably change once the bombs were dropped, they were not ignoring the war. In fact, psychologists reported that more than half of their patients are being affected by the war with Iraq.

The survey, conducted with “real-time” reporting by psychologists both before and after the first bombs of the war fell, found that psychologists said 67 percent of patients were affected by the threat of war, and 42 percent discussed war and the threat of terrorism in their most recent session.

Additionally, while only one patient initiated therapy due to concerns about current events, 13 percent of patients already in treatment were concerned enough about war and terrorism for it to become a focus of their treatment, according to the psychologists who responded to the survey.

Psychologists surveyed also reported that the threat of war and terrorism had an emotional impact on many patients’ lives: 28 percent of patients felt that the greatest emotional response was apprehension; nearly 19 percent of patients felt distress; and nearly 18 percent felt anger.

Newman said the ongoing buildup of anxiety found in the survey is exactly why APA began offering tips for building resilience last fall.

“We first began talking about resilience when it became apparent that people were looking for skills to help them bounce back from significant ongoing stressors, as well as trauma and disaster,” Newman said. “We’ve found that the skills of resilience can even inoculate people before trauma occurs.”

APA began its “Road to Resilience” campaign after September 11, 2001 to teach resilience skills and has added to that with its “Resilience in a Time of War” series of brochures as a result of the war with Iraq.

APA conducted the survey using its PracticeNet? technology, which uses the Internet to conduct unique real-time behavioral sampling of psychologists about aspects of their practice. Psychologists were asked to comment on a randomly selected, anonymous patient at a particular time during their normal clinical hours. The survey was conducted from March 20, on the day the war officially began, through March 24.

Of the 446 surveys that were emailed to selected psychologists, 225 were returned, leading to a 51 percent response rate.

APA’s “Resilience in a Time of War” materials, including brochures aimed at consumers; parents and teachers of very young children; parents and teachers of elementary school children; parents and teachers of middle school children; parents and teachers of highschoolers; and teens, are available by calling toll-free 1-800-964-2000 or by free download at http://helping.apa.org.

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The American Psychological Association (APA), located in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 155,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and its affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting health, education and welfare.

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