Therapist says it is normal to be scared of theaters for a bitWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
It is completely normal for adults and children to be anxious about visiting a movie theater after the Batman shooting, said OraLee Macklenar, a clinical therapist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
The Mercy employee said people should not be embarrassed if they want to take a break from movie theaters, especially the first few weekends after such a tragedy. However, they need to remind themselves how frequently they have safely watched a movie.
“Fear is very, very common for adults and especially for children,” Macklenar said. “When something violent happens in a place where it is friendly and peaceful, it is never anticipated.”
Additionally, people are upset that a fellow human has inflicted such pain. They ask, “How could this happen?”
When people eventually return to the movies, it makes sense for them to watch for a person “doing something weird,” Macklenar said, but they also need to guard against overreacting.
“You do need to be vigilant. I don’t think that is abnormal. Rewind 50 years ago and it might be, but not in this day and age.”
Macklenar saw a spike in anxiety disorders after Sept. 11, 2001, but that doesn’t mean people who experience anxiety in the weeks after the Batman tragedy have a disorder, she said.
“Get away from the TV, turn it off. It is good to be informed, but you need a happy balance.”
A study after the Oklahoma City bombing showed children within a 100-mile radius of the attack were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because they were taking in daily doses of intense media coverage. These days the coverage is even more comprehensive because of the Internet, Macklenar said.
“We recommend that families take a cautious approach. We know what the news is and we need to back away and do engaging things as a family,” she said.
Also, don’t take a hard-line approach by forcing a child to go to the movies to conquer the fear.
“Temper that with time and patience. In our adult thinking, we are so much more mature. We have a different way of reasoning through crisis,” she said.
Talk to your children about facts. Let them talk about what has happened. Let them put it into their own words. Reassure them that they aren’t alone and you are with them.
“Help them realize that bad things happen and this is bad, but there are safe places and good theaters to go to.”
This is also good advice for adults who are scared.
“It is normal to not want to go to the movies for a while,” Macklenar said.