Less than a week after Andrew King moved to
, from Cambridge,
Mass. , the 26-year-old
biostatistician found himself living under lockdown, along with a million or so
others, as law enforcement hunted for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston
Marathon bombing suspect. Little
With no cable hookup and his cell phone's Internet connection on the fritz, he found out about the lockdown from a friend in
"As soon as I read the text, I ran back in my room and literally covered my head with the sheets," he said. "It was terrifying."
For several hours, King huddled in his unpacked apartment that bordered where the suspect was eventually apprehended, peering out the window at the legions of armed police performing a slow sweep of the streets and driveways. King's friend kept texting him updated news reports, which King tried to reconcile with what he was seeing outside his door.
"It was just unbelievably surreal," he said.
Now that the subject has been apprehended, the city has no doubt breathed a collective sigh of relief. But a nagging sense of insecurity will likely linger for many, said experts.
"There is a particular sense of vulnerability to this act of violence, because these men lived among us. It is one of those traumatic events that are at the very heart of post traumatic stress," said Dr. Paul Ragan, an assistant professor of psychiatry at
After a traumatic five days that began with the marathon bombings and ended with the manhunt and lockdown, Ragan said he'd expect some percentage of Boston-area residents to experience some lingering level of anxiety, depression or fear.
Some will develop an "acute stress disorder," characterized by an emotional detachment, flashbacks, a heightened startle response, poor concentration and irritability, Ragan said. If such symptoms last for six months or longer, they could morph into full-blown post traumatic stress disorder.
"People think PTSD is a normal response to abnormal happenings, but that's not true," Ragan said. "It's classified as a severe anxiety disorder that requires treatment."
Ragan said he suspected the most deeply affected would continue to relive the events of the past week through nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive memories. He said they were also likely to develop a set of avoidance behaviors -- a marathoner might give up running, others might avoid
Square and other geographic reminders of the
Although it is impossible to know how many people will be plagued by long-term psychological problems, Ragan said women, children and those with a genetic predisposition to psychological problems, including PTSD, or who lived through similar traumatic events, were at highest risk.
One of the biggest risk factors is proximity to the danger.
King's friend Taraq Abdallat was walking in
to another friend's house for dinner shortly after the
"shelter in place" order was lifted when he heard the gunfire
exchange between the police and the alleged bomber. The pop of gunfire was so
close that Abdallat feared for his life and hustled to get indoors. Watertown
Abdallat, who is originally from
, described the experience as devastating. Jordan
"I can't feel secure the same way I used to before these terrible things happened. I don't feel secure in my hometown anymore," he said.
Studies find that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the
Trade Center , the highest
percentage of both short- and long-term psychological disturbances were
reported by people closest to the attacks with a progressively smaller
percentage of people reporting disturbances the farther away they were from the
Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at
Hill Hospital said many New
York residents might react differently because ubiquitous
access to texting, Twitter and other forms of instantaneous communication might
have given them a feeling of control, or "empowerment." Boston
But Manevitz said
residents still needed to be vigilant in monitoring
stress and other psychological symptoms. He recommended avoiding the endless
news cycle and having open, honest discussions about feelings with friends,
family and loved ones, especially children. And if symptoms become
unmanageable, he recommended seeking professional help."Even with
lockdown, people were fully engaged and aware of what was going on
electronically, soothing each other, informing and also ... searching their own
photos and videos to try to help the FBI. They were scared and traumatized, but
there was also an informed calmness," he said. Boston
Manevitz said he believed social media may be transforming the way we respond to catastrophic events. Social media, he said, allows people to feel less isolated. Although it can be the source of rumors and misinformation, it can also, he said, help people stay calm.
events in particular allowed the public to watch the
results of the government's efforts unfold in real time, which many people
found comforting, Manevitz said. Also, because the government directly appealed
to the public for assistance, many people felt useful even if they weren't
directly involved in the search for the bombers. Boston
As for King, he said he felt shaky for a few days but said he must move on with his life.
"I was a little nervous on Saturday but by Sunday the streets were crowded again and people were in the park playing soccer and softball. I'm not having second thoughts about moving to
," he said. Boston