Non-Flash version

Marge: Terrorism

Marge was buying her groceries when a bomb exploded. She was quite close to the blast.

Victim’s response and symptoms

Marge was selecting vegetables when the bomb exploded in the market. Dozens were killed just feet away from Marge. Knocked over by the force of the blast, Marge found herself on the floor under some collapsed stalls.

She managed to get up several minutes later. She was deafened, dazed and felt disconnected from the world. She saw the chaos around her without comprehending what was happening. The dozens of dead were disfigured beyond recognition by the blast, their faces no longer distinguishable as faces. Marge then proceeded to wander the streets in a daze, without knowing where she was going. After a while she saw a figure bend down towards her and talk to her. It was a fireman. She was found curled-up in a telephone booth several hundred feet away, covered in ash and bits of bone and blood.

Later Marge was told that her eardrums had burst in the explosion. Marge cannot remember how she ended up in the phone booth.

Marge cannot bear to hear about the attack. She would like to forget about it and live as before. She sold her television, because the attack was mentioned so often. She also avoids conversations about the attack. Journalists have phoned her on several occasions, because she was one of the few survivors; she subsequently stopped taking calls. Anything that reminds her of the event upsets her to the point that she trembles and sweats, so she does all she can to not think about it. Despite this, images of twisted bodies and disfigured faces intrude in on her thoughts.

Even though she lives alone she tries to further isolate herself, because everything reminds her of the attack. She often thinks about the moment before the explosion when everyone seemed relaxed; some were even laughing. Marge has lost faith in humanity and she jumps whenever she hears sudden sounds.

She can no longer bear crowds and avoids going out as much as possible. She is no longer herself. One month after the attack, Marge was walking on the street when some children let off some firecrackers. She threw herself against a parked car, seeking shelter.

The psychologist’s observations

A terrorist attack was chosen to illustrate the concept of collective trauma. The damage caused by such an event and the fact that it is experienced it so suddenly and with others, make it fairly distinct. A neighbourhood, a town (e.g. an industrial accident), or a whole region (e.g. a natural disaster) can be affected in this way.

Traumatic event and peritraumatic response

Marge has experienced a traumatic event. She lived through an event where people died and she herself could have been killed.

She exhibited dissociative symptoms directly after the attack, as evidenced by her feeling of disconnect from the scene around her. It is as if, for just a moment, she was a witness to the disaster.

She also does not remember exactly what happened, as if her memory did not register what was going on directly after the event. She does not remember what happened immediately after the attack and how she ended up in the phone booth.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Since the attack, Marge is exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress:

  • Intrusive thoughts: Marge can behave as if the event is repeating itself. Marge is extremely distressed when she is reminded of the event. She can even have physiological reactions (such as sweating and trembling) during such moments. She also has intrusive images in the daytime, of disfigured faces and mangled bodies.
  • Avoidance: Marge isolates herself and avoids anything that may remind her of the event (e.g. people, public situations, television, the telephone).
  • Numbness: Marge tries to isolate herself, and avoids contact with others. She has lost her faith in humanity.
  • Hyperarousal: Marge is always on her guard. She thinks another attack could occur at any moment and lives under the anticipatory fear of ever-present danger. She jumps at the slightest noise.

Other problems

  • Phobia or crowds: Marge is extremely distressed at the idea of being in a crowd. She is scared of suffocating and is worried that another bomb may explode.

Last updated: 1/1/2010 | © info-trauma 2009