There is no question that Hannah Anderson went through a traumatic ordeal. The teen was abducted, and she was in close range of her captor when he was shot and killed by authorities. She was then reunited with her father, only to learn that her mother and brother had been killed.
She is likely to be struggling with symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder, which can include anxiety, depression, anger, shame, nightmares, and hypervigilance to her surroundings. Most times, when a person has Acute Stress Disorder after a trauma, the symptoms go away on their own. But, when the trauma is severe enough, the symptoms remain. Sometimes they even get worse. It can eventually turn into Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Although Ms. Anderson's ordeal was indeed traumatic, it started and ended relatively quickly. That is a good sign for future recovery--the longer the trauma lasts, the harder it can be to work past it.
Ideally, Ms. Anderson will start meeting with a therapist soon. There is a particular type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that research has shown to be highly effective with individuals with PTSD and acute stress. It is referred to as Exposure Therapy. Essentially, the therapist works with the client to repeatedly "expose" her to her traumatic event, typically by having her describe it in detail. The therapist then helps the client quell her anxiety while she is discussing the trauma. Over time, the anxiety from the event diminishes and the trauma loses much of its destructive power over the individual. And, the sooner this type of therapy is initiated, the better the potential outcome.
My hope is that Ms. Anderson and her father both engage in psychotherapy soon in order to begin the healing process.
Here is a 9 News video where I discuss this issue with Kyle Clark:
Click here to watch the video if you are viewing this on a non-Flash enabled device.
Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.