What you can do
It is certain things will never be the same, but mental health professionals call attention to the human ability to adapt. "We've been kind of privileged in not living in a state of fear that a lot of the rest of the world does live in," Rosen says. "But we will get used to it. We'll be able to live in this state and be productive and go back to what we really need to go back to, which is family, work and all the routine parts of life." Strategies for easing the transition, doctors say, include exercise, talking about feelings with friends and family, keeping to routine eating and sleeping schedules and continuing with the small pleasures of life, such as going for walks, listening to music or watching movies.
The experts also suggest limiting your exposure to news coverage. "Obviously, we all want to be informed citizens," Ellen Leibenluft, a physician at the National Institute of Mental Health, says. "But the other thing is to titrate the amount of brain time people spend on this." If you find news fasting too much to bear, Erica Wise, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has this advice: read or listen, but don't watch. "It does seem that the visual medium is a little more intense," she cautions. "[With radio, anxious people] are less likely to have exposure to images that are going to be things that they see again and again in their minds."
Repeated images of space-suit-clad officers help viewers to overestimate the general level of danger, psychologists say. The unknown aspect also feeds fear. Even though the average American is still more likely to die in a car accident than to contract anthrax, the continual focus on outcome rather than probability means anthrax is at the forefront of the American consciousness now. And with the ever-increasing perceived threat of anthrax exposure, there have been increasing numbers of reports of people wanting to safeguard a personal supply of Cipro, an antibiotic used to treat anthrax.
Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal have cautioned against hoarding or using antibiotics unnecessarily. The medications are not without side effects, the AMA cautions, and must be used only when necessary to avoid a growing likelihood of antibiotic resistance. What is more, they add, "the federal government has stressed that antibiotics for the treatment of anthrax are stockpiled in several areas of the nation and they can de delivered to any airport within 12 hours."
In their editorial, Anthony Hart of the University of Liverpool and Nicholas Beeching of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine write that "the important thing is to ensure that prophylactic treatment is given only to those who really need it, and to discourage its mass use by an understandably alarmed public. To induce antimicrobial resistance on a mass scale would be an even greater triumph for the terrorists."