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Abstract

We examined emotional reactions to and subsequent memory for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in individuals with a history of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Surveys were conducted among clients, staff, and visitors of a Veterans Administration Hospital approximately one month and again 10 months after the attacks. As compared to a trauma-control group matched on age, sex, education, and veteran status, PTSD participants reported being more negatively affected by the attacks in the follow-up, but not in the initial survey. PTSD and matched trauma control participants were similar in various measures of their initial autobiographical memory and event memory for factual details of the attacks. However, within-subject comparison revealed significant forgetting over the 9 months in event memory only for the PTSD participants. Furthermore, PTSD participants exhibited a tendency to inflate the emotional aspects of their memory over time. Finally, only in the PTSD group, age was negatively correlated with event memory, suggesting an accelerated memory decline with age associated with PTSD. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.