The Psychological Effects of Terrorist
By Terence T. Gorski
January 19, 2002
Goal of Terrorism: One goal of terrorism is to disrupt a society by causing wide spread
psychological damage and social disruption. The recent terrorist
attacks on America are no exception.
Psychological Effects of September 11th: Therefore, it's not surprising that the terrorist attacks of September
11, 2001 have unleashed an epidemic of stress-related mental health,
substance abuse, and stress-related medical problems upon the American
Stress-related problems Before September 11th: Even before the terrorist attacks, Americans were
not strangers to stress-related problems. In 1999 anxiety-related
disorders cost the U.S. about $42 billion a year in medical and
Effects of the Ongoing War on Terrorism: In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and in the presence of the
ongoing threat of new attacks many experts expect a radical increase in
the number of people experiencing serious problems with alcohol,
prescription, react ional drugs, mental health problems, and
stress-related medical problems. This could result in higher
than expected costs for addiction, mental health, and health-care
services that can further strain an already ailing economy.
Populations In High Risk of Psychological Effects: Those
who are most at risk of developing traumatic
stress reactions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and related
anxiety and panic disorders are the people who were directly involved
the tragedies. This includes victims who were physically injured
or exposed to life-threatening danger, those who watched the events
unfold from a nearby vantage point, and those who lost a loved one.
friend, or coworker in the attacks. Experts estimate that
somewhere between 70,000 to 100,000 people in New York City alone had
the kind of exposure to the terrorist attacks that puts them at
risk for developing PTSD.
Subclinical States of chronic High Stress: Countless other Americans have been plagued by chronically high stress accompanied
by a variety of stress-related problems such as irritability, problems
sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and tendency to feel run down or
burned out. There is another group that experienced a state of heightened
and chronic anxiety.
Effects of Deliberate Mass Violence: The rates of PTSD and stress-related problems are
greater following events caused by deliberate violence than after
Recovering Populations At Risk: Individuals with previously diagnosed addiction and mental health are
most likely to suffer from more severe cases of PTSD marked by both more
frequent symptom episodes and more severe symptoms during each episode.
of Traumatic Events: There are two types of traumatic experiences which result in different
types of traumatic stress responses.
Incident Traumatic Stress Experiences: A single time limited
episode of traumatic violence that occurs and ends with no serious
threat of recurring episodes of traumatic violence
Traumatic Stress Experiences: Prolonged ongoing experiences marked
by continuous threat of or actual recurrence of episodes of traumatic
Effects of Multiple-incident Traumatic Stress Experiences: Multiple-incident Traumatic Stress Experiences tend to produce more
damage than Single Incident Traumatic Stress Experiences.
America's War On Terrorism Is An Ongoing Multiple Incident Traumatic
Stress Experience: The September 11th Terrorist Attacks on America marked the beginning of
a prolonged sequence of Multiple-incident Traumatic Stress Experiences
which is still ongoing at the time of this writing in January of
2002. The nation has remained at a constant state of high alert
for repeat terrorism, is in the midst of a foreign war against terrorism
in Afghanistan with clear indications that the war will be prolonged and
expanded to other parts of the world. The nation has been
subjected to continuous upgrading of homeland defense procedures.
There was an anthrax attack whose perpetrator has not been identified as
of this writing. The American are being told repeatedly that they
are in a clear and present danger of biological, chemical, and perhaps
even nuclear terrorist attack.
Effects of Ongoing Terrorist Threats: The ongoing threat of new
terrorist attacks, especially biological & chemical attacks, causes
adverse psychological effects to large percentages of the
population. The primary adverse psychological effects
Chronic states of high stress resulting in stress-related health
Chronic states of low grade suspicion, paranoia, and hyper vigilance;
Persistent feelings of anxiety, fear, and dread;
Confusion, and uncertainty.
Reduced resiliency, increased depression and demoralization as a result
of continuous exposure to the threat of recurrent trauma.
Ramifications of Effects of Ongoing Threats: Some experts believe that the long-term psychological ramifications of
chemical or biological terrorism may be more damaging than any physical
effects from an actual attack.