Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry


People who witness the murder of an individual, whether a family member or acquaintance, often experience their loss as a psychic trauma. This described trauma is revealed by the symptom complex defined in the DSM-III-R as post -traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children, in particular, frequently suffer from debilitating grief, which hinders their emotional and cognitive development. This grief may masquerade as a learning disability, hyperactivity, or an attention deficit disorder. Witnessing murder and being victimized (i.e, rape, incest, and physical abuse) are equivalent experiences in their potential for generating massive intrapsychic conflict. Being poor is a predisposing factor which puts some groups at risk more than others. Further, the lack of therapeutic interventions enhances the likelihood of symptomatology and the perpetuation of intergenerational transmission. Few case reports have been written on the homicide witnesses' vulnerability to PTSD and their positive response to psychotherapy. There is an urgent need for more work in this area. The following review and case history present some of the current thoughts on these issues.

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