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Coping with Stress Following a Traumatic Incident

By initiating fear and feelings of helplessness in people, terrorism negatively affects society. When attacks happen, everyone tries to find ways to deal with the panic, trauma and stress. Every terrorist attack creates a sense of helplessness in people who witness or hear about unprovoked and intentional violent actions. Since the information is not easy to comprehend, most people battle a chain of psychological effects. These include feelings of vulnerability, grief and fear.



This term refers to a feeling of hatred or fear toward strangers. When terrorist attacks occur, this feeling is often heightened and can escalate into a psychological or social disorder. If there is distrust between different groups, the fear caused by terrorism can be exacerbated. People who have experienced terrorist attacks can provide valuable support to those who must learn how to cope. Following an attack, many different types of people are impacted.

Those who experience trauma usually fall into the following categories:

Ø  People who experience the trauma of learning about friends, family members or coworkers who were targets of violence.

Ø  People who continually see media exposure of incidents that happened to individuals they know personally.

Ø  Individuals who were victims of the attack or witnessed it personally.

Ø  Survivors of terrorism, wars, domestic violence, abuse or persecution who develop greater vulnerabilities after attacks.

Terrorist Attack Responses

After an attack happens, people who experience it normally enter an acute state of shock.


The following symptoms are associated with this reaction:

Ø Feeling so afraid of everything that isolation ensues.

Ø Constant thoughts about the incident.

Ø Feeling guilty about surviving or not doing more to help.

Ø Inability or reluctance to voice feelings.

Ø Loss of control over life choices.

Ø Feeling a constant and immense sense of loss.

Ø Changes in daily routines or stopping of usual functioning.

Dealing with Trauma

It is important for victims of terrorist attacks to realize their feelings and know that those emotions are normal reactions to obscure situations. They must also remember that overcoming trauma and adversity is possible. One way to make this easier is for affected individuals to think back to their past experiences. Since nearly every person has at least one traumatic memory, this is a way to think back to how that event was successfully overcome. For those who developed their own methods of coping, it is good to retry any past ideas for dealing with the stress. Talking to others is also helpful. No person should feel embarrassed or bad about asking for help. In workplaces where multiple people have been affected by terrorist attacks, counselors may come in and host small group events where people can talk about their feelings.

Affected people should make efforts to keep their normal routines and be realistic about recovery times. No person should expect immediate change. Terrorist attacks cause uncertainty and fear, so it is important for people to continue doing the things they enjoy. Becoming preoccupied with matters that cannot be controlled will only worsen stress and anxiety.

There are also several ways people can help their children cope with stress following terrorist attacks. One of the best ways to limit their exposure to the event is to limit the amount of media coverage watched. Children should be encouraged to talk about their feelings about the attack, and parents should ask questions about what their kids have seen or heard. It is also important for parents to assure children that they will be helped. In addition to this, adults should be proactive about following up on their kids' feelings and reactions. Having a strong support system at home is important for children to overcome the effects of a terrorist attack.

(This document is not a legal opinion and should not be relied upon as such. The intent of this document is to provide a general background regarding the topic or topics discussed, not to provide legal advice. Producers and agencies should consult an attorney regarding specific situations and specific questions with respect to the topic or topics covered in this document. Neither the Insurance Agents & Brokers nor any of its employees shall be responsible for any errors or omissions regarding any statements made in this document, nor any errors or omissions regarding any statutes, regulations, court rules, and/or any other government documents cited in this document.)

Posted 5:35 PM

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