-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- People who have been
mugged or randomly attacked can remain highly distrustful of others
long after the incident, a new study finds.
The findings reveal a previously under-recognized effect of
physical assault and could help improve therapy for victims, the
British researchers said.
Their study included more than 100 people treated at a hospital
for minor injuries suffered during a mugging or physical assault.
The participants were monitored for the next six months.
Four out of five victims said that since the assault, they were
more fearful of other people than they wanted to be, according to
the study, which was published March 27 in the journal
Factors that resulted in strong feelings of mistrust lasting for
six months included: being attacked close to home, feeling defeated
at the time, excessive worry afterward, feeling unsupported by
others and sleeping problems.
It is well known that suffering a physical assault can cause
symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but this is the first
study to show that excessive mistrust of other people, or paranoia,
can last for months after an assault, the researchers said.
"It is very understandable that being attacked makes us wary of the people around us. Our mindset may become more like that of a bodyguard, vigilant for danger," study leader Daniel Freeman, a professor at the University of Oxford, said in a Wellcome Trust news release.
"When we are overly mistrustful, that is a form of paranoia," Freeman said. "It may well be a normal temporary change in our thinking after being a victim of attack."
The danger of such thoughts, however, is that people may end up
isolating themselves from others and dwell only on the worst, said
Freeman, who led the study while at the Institute of Psychiatry of
King's College London.
"It is an under-recognized problem in the aftermath of an attack," he said.
The National Crime Prevention Council outlines ways to protect
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