July 5, 2012
Media coverage of terror increases pain in patients
Professor Golan Shahar of Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Psychology
A recent study found that watching media coverage of terrorist attacks increased the intensity of pain in those already suffering from chronic pain and elevated feelings of stress as well.
In a study published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings entitled “Does War Hurt? Effects of Media Exposure After Missile Attacks on Chronic Pain,” Professor Golan Shahar and Dr. Sheera F. Lerman of Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Psychology and Dr. Zvia Rudich of Soroka University Medical Center surveyed 55 chronic pain patients at a pain clinic. The members of the study filled out questionnaires describing their level of pain, depression and anxiety before and after a three-week missile attack during Operation Cast Lead in Israel’s Negev region.
The results of the study indicate a connection between the reaction to terrorism and physical and emotional indicators and calls attention to chronic pain patients as more sensitive to stress tied to terrorism exposure. Dr. Shahar noted that such patients may also be more inclined to pursue reports on terrorism.
“These findings are completely consistent with other studies that have found that exposure to trauma and the results of terror attacks, even in the form of secondary exposure, such as watching reports of trauma on television or reading written reports of it, may cause heightened anxiety, decreases in self-esteem and even changes in cognitive processing skills,” said Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., Senior Psychologist/Director, ADC Psychological Services, in Hewlett. “Changes in cognitive processing are often linked with heightened awareness of pain. Studies of this nature serve to highlight the fact that while it is important to be aware and knowledgeable about terror it is also important to take precautions in the degree of exposure to the information.”
“Patients’ previous levels of emotional distress may affect their ability to cope with stressful situations, making stressors more prominent and influencing them to seek out more information about the situation,” Prof. Shahar explained.
“War and terrorism have become part of daily life for a growing number of individuals throughout the world,” Prof. Shahar continued. “ Although there is evidence of the negative effect of stress on pain and physical health, few studies have explored the specific effect of war on physical pain in individuals who were not directly wounded.” Prof. Shahar is also affiliated with Yale University’s Department of Psychiatry in New Haven, Connecticut.
The research was supported by The Israel Science Foundation.