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Keywords:

  • posttraumatic stress disorder;
  • rescue workers;
  • coping;
  • disaster;
  • alcohol use disorder;
  • Diagnostic Interview Schedule

Abstract

Studies have not previously considered postdisaster adjustment in the context of psychiatric disorders. After the Oklahoma City bombing, a volunteer sample of 181 firefighters who served as rescue and recovery workers was assessed with a structured diagnostic interview. The firefighters had relatively low rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and described little functional impairment, positive social adjustment, and high job satisfaction. PTSD was associated with reduced job satisfaction and functional impairment, providing diagnostic validity. Turning to social supports, seeking mental health treatment, and taking medication were not widely prevalent coping responses. Postdisaster alcohol use disorders and drinking to cope were significantly associated with indicators of poorer functioning. Surveillance for problem drinking after disaster exposure may identify useful directions for intervention.