In given situations, we may all feel fear. This is a normal reaction which prepares us to cope with danger. Fear makes us alert and activates our senses and body, making us able to avoid or fight the threat. Fear reactions do not become problematic until they arise in normal situations.
Physical activation may protect us in danger, but in everyday life it heightens our stress and discomfort.
Belinda Ekornås, RVTS East
After major incidents, our physical activation can be heighten for a long time. The reactions persist, but they have no longer a helpful function. Instead, these reactions can reinforce the feeling of danger and impact our functioning both at work, school and leisure time. Things that used to be nice and pleasant, e.g. taking a break at a cafe or going to a concert with friends, becomes associated with danger and are avoided.
When normal reactions become abnormal:
Fear and anxiety differs. While fear is based on a real threat, anxiety is based on something we are afraid might happen. Who will experience reactions after national traumas, such as 9/11 in the US or 22nd of July in Norway, is hard to foresee. It is not possible to predict reactions based solely on concrete observations, such as the degree of exposure or loss. However, some coping strategies may increase the likelihood for experiencing difficulties and post-traumatic stress reactions (PTSD) six months after a terrorist attack: 22nd
- distract from or blame yourself
- avoid coping experiences
Post-traumatic stress reactions are more common among women than men, – the following strategies will reduce stress and discomfort:
- acceptance reduces the prevalence of PTSD
- active use of coping strategies
Terrorist attacks influence peoples feeling of security, quality of life and mental health. Nearly half the adult population showed symptoms of stress during the first days after the 9/11 attacks. In the following months, a great majority reported that they were worried that either themselves or their next of kin would be victims of a terror attack. This fear was reduced over time. Similarly, 1/3 of the London citizens reported stress reactions during the first couple of weeks after the bombings in 2005. Seven months later, the number was reduced to 11%.