Utah doctor talks about how to cope with anxiety following mass shootings

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'Our brains weren't meant to process these types of events,' Ogden psychiatrist says

OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Utah doctor is weighing in on how individuals and families can cope with stress and anxiety that follow exposure to mass shootings and other current events.

The collective fear many are experiencing was evident Tuesday in West Valley City, when a sign at Valley Fair mall crashed to the ground – a crowd mistaking the sound for gunfire. Pandemonium ensued.

“I just thought immediately there was a shooting,” said Valley Fair store manager Courtney Nicholson, “Like something was happening outside of the mall.”

In New York’s Times Square Tuesday – a similar incident. A car backfiring caused a crowd of people to run in a panic, mistaking the sound for gunfire. All this just three days following horrific mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

“Those anxiety circuits are elevated right now. They are giving us more feedback then they usually do, because we have all collectively kind of seen and experienced a traumatic experience,” said Dorsey.

Dorsey said if one is feeling anxious or panicky following such an event as a mass shooting or terrorist attack experienced secondhand through news coverage and online media, he recommends limiting one’s exposure. While it’s important to stay informed, he said over-indulging in coverage can be damaging.

“Sometimes we just re-injure ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to heal,” said Dr. Dorsey.

Dorsey also recommends keeping a journal about one’s feelings surrounding a negative event and seeking professional help if the anxiety does not subside within a reasonable amount of time.

Nicholson said the crowd’s reaction to a loud noise Tuesday at Valley Fair mall offers a grim commentary about the state of society.

“It’s sad that we can’t go into a public place without looking over our back or hearing a loud noise and taking cover,” she said.

If you are experiencing panic or anxiety because of recent events, there is help available. Click here for more information.

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