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Utøya survivors are tormented by thoughts of what could have happened

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The researcher who has researched the Utøya survivors says that there is a connection between thoughts about what could have happened and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB

Of NTB | 14.05.2024 06:10:57

Science and technology: This is shown by research from the Utøya Study and the Cognito project at NKVTS (National Knowledge Center on Violence and Traumatic Stress), according to Forskning.no.

Researcher Andrea Barsnes Undset says that it is common to experience reactions after a traumatic event.

– For many, these reactions will pass during the first weeks and months after the event. For some, the reactions persist, she explains.

In addition to being troubled by memories and thoughts about what actually happened, many also experience thoughts about what could have happened. The researcher calls this counterfactual thoughts.

– Counterfactual thoughts usually help us make judgments and learn from our experiences. After traumatic events, thoughts about how the event could have been avoided or had an even worse outcome can be painful, says Undset.

She says that there is a connection between such thoughts and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.

The researchers have analyzed data from the last round of interviews in the Utøya Study. The participants were 289 survivors of the terrorist attack on Utøya in 2011. They were interviewed 8.5 to 9 years after the attack, and their average age was 28.

Of these, 83 per cent said that they had had thoughts about what could have happened or how things could have gone differently after the terrorist attack.

(© NTB)

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