“It is not too late to take charge of post-traumatic stress disorder”

For several weeks, and until the end of October at the earliest, the Assize Court of the Paris Court of Appeal will hear the testimony of hundreds of traumatized and injured people, relatives of victims who died during the attacks of November 13, 2015 in Stade de France, on the terraces of the 10e and 11e arrondissements of Paris, and Bataclan. No less than 350 victims of some 2,000 civil parties have or will testify at the helm of the horror of these shattered lives. So with Gaëlle, who “Works to transform [ses] handicaps in strength and advance as [elle peut] ” : ” I do not have a choice “, she says. From Pierre-Sylvain, who talks about this trial which becomes “A collective story”. From Maya, Carillon survivor: “I rebuilt myself, but what I would like now is to live … I have been waiting for this trial for a year, I have been waiting to turn this page, to no longer be in the reconstruction, but simply in the life. ” And so many others, whose former lives have remained here forever.

Professor Thierry Baubet, co-director of the National Center for Resources and Resilience, head of the psychiatry department at the Avicenne hospital (AP-HP) in Bobigny (93), explains the psychological consequences of such a tragedy.

Can the testimonies of victims during these days of trial revive memories of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, from which many witnesses still suffer?

Yes, inevitably, this increases the traumatic reviviscences – which confront death. The effect depends on each one, it is very variable according to where are the people with their trauma. Some still have post-traumatic stress disorder and are not doing well at all today, others see their condition worsening upon hearing these testimonies.

Among the important symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder [TSPT] appear reviviscences, which are the return of images, perceptions, sounds, smells, sensations… People smell blood again, hear Kalashnikovs again… Each time it happens again – sometimes several times a day – it produces the same distress as when the event occurred, even five or ten years later if people are not treated. It’s intrusive.

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Avoidance is another important symptom of PTSD. The person does everything to avoid anything that might remind him of this traumatic memory, to bring him back to it. However, during the trial, people are sometimes confronted in a very raw way with the testimonies of others, with the recordings, with photos of crime scenes. For those who have walked, who are better, it will produce moments of significant distress in a transitory way. On the other hand, for those who still have a strong PTSD, reliving these traumatic memories can make their condition even worse.

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