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Talking Points Bulletin #1
The Psychological Effects of Terrorist
By Terence T. Gorski
January 19, 2002

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Posted On: <Date Posted>          Updated On: January 20, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

Talking Points Bulletin #1
The Psychological Effects of Terrorist
By Terence T. Gorski
January 19, 2002

1.    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.  

2.    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 people. 

3.    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 work-related losses.  

4.    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.  

4.    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.

5.    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.   

6.    Effects of Deliberate Mass Violence:  The rates of PTSD and stress-related problems are greater following events caused by deliberate violence than after natural disasters.

7.    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.

8.    Types of Traumatic Events:  There are two types of traumatic experiences which result in different types of traumatic stress responses.  

A.    Single 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

B.    Multi-incident Traumatic Stress Experiences: Prolonged ongoing experiences marked by continuous threat of or actual recurrence of episodes of traumatic violence. 

9.    Effects of Multiple-incident Traumatic Stress Experiences:  Multiple-incident Traumatic Stress Experiences tend to produce more damage than Single Incident Traumatic Stress Experiences.

10.  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.  

11.  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 are:  

A.   Chronic states of high stress resulting in stress-related health problems;  

B.   Chronic states of low grade suspicion, paranoia, and hyper vigilance; 

C.   Persistent feelings of anxiety, fear, and dread;  

D.   Confusion, and uncertainty.  

E.    Reduced resiliency, increased depression and demoralization as a result of continuous exposure to the threat of recurrent trauma.  

12.  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.   


1.  Psychological Effects - Nature vs. Human-caused Disasters

2.  PTSD - Effects Of Stress On The Brain (01-20-01)


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