Persistent physiological reactivity in a pilot study of partners of firefighters after a terrorist attack

Betty Pfefferbaum, Phebe Tucker, Carol S North, Haekyung Jeon-Slaughter, Adrian T. Kent, John K. Schorr, Teddy G. Wilson, Kenneth Bunch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Twenty-four female partners of firefighters participating in recovery efforts associated with the 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City were assessed 43 to 44 months later. Disaster experiences, psychiatric diagnoses, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and autonomic reactivity in response to an interview about the bombing were examined. Most of the participants with postbombing disorders suffered from pre-existing conditions. The majority found the bombing a "terrible" or "shocking" experience. One participant met all DSM-III-R symptom group criteria for bombing-related posttraumatic stress disorder, and 40% met both B (intrusive re-experiencing) and D (hyperarousal) criteria. More than one half of the sample exhibited autonomic reactivity on at least one measurement. Those who met symptom group criterion D evidenced greater autonomic reactivity than those who did not, suggesting a link between self-reported posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms of arousal and biological manifestations. Thus, it may be important to assess partners of disaster recovery workers for mental health and physiological consequences related to their indirect exposure as these may persist years after the event, even in the absence of a diagnosable mental disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-131
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006


  • Firefighter
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Psychophysiology
  • Rescue worker
  • Terrorism
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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