Terrorism: Understanding Its Psychological Impact On People

Terrorism: Understanding Its Psychological Impact On People

A Group of women screaming together.

Terrorism has been for as long as humans can remember, but there has been a tremendous increase in activities during the last ten years. Terrorism constitutes a form of psychological warfare. The mode of action used to terrorise society may alter, but the goal remains the same. Blasts, suicide bombings, bio-terrorism, narco-terrorism, and financial terrorism could all be used as a tactic “Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict with the intent of instilling terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminately) through violent victimisation and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols).” These activities are intended to send a message from a criminal group.

Terrorism’s goal is to use the media as a force multiplier to generate maximum attention in order to affect the targeted audience(s) in order to achieve short- and midrange political goals and/or desired long-term end states.”

Consequences of Terrorism
  • Direct economic destruction

Terrorism’s most immediate and measurable impact is physical destruction. Existing plants, machineries, transportation systems, personnel, and other economic resources are destroyed by terrorists. Terrorists may blow up cafes, churches, or roadways on a lesser scale.
Terrorism and conflict always have a detrimental influence on the economy, and physical devastation is a major reason for this.

Heightened uncertainty in markets

There is much disagreement on the extent and scope of the actual impact on financial markets. Markets appear to be becoming more resilient as global terrorism threats and publicity increase. Following the terrorist attacks in France that killed at least 129 people in 2015, stock market indexes did not fall much. The horrific incident in Nice, France, in 2016 further adds to the perception that France is becoming an increasingly dangerous place to live and do business.

  • War is hazardous to the state’s health

In the study of political economy, there is an old adage that “war is the health of the state.” It means that in times of conflict, reactive governments and fearful individuals are significantly more willing to give up economic and political liberties in exchange for protection . This could lead to more taxes, larger government deficits, and increased inflation. During a war, the government frequently imposes price controls and, in certain cases, nationalises companies.

  • Emotional

Terrorism’s emotional ramifications, particularly the death of a loved one, can be devastating and long-lasting. The sadness and pain felt by people who have lost someone in a terrorist attack can be overpowering and manifest in a variety of ways. The following are some of the emotional consequences that people may face after losing a loved one to terrorism:

1) Intense Grief:

The loss of a loved one in a terrorist attack can result in deep grief, which is characterised by anguish, despair, and emptiness. This sadness can continue a long time and manifest itself unexpectedly, even years after the occurrence.

2) Shock and Disbelief:

Because of the sudden and brutal nature of the death, survivors may initially experience shock and disbelief and struggle to comprehend the reality of the loss.

3) Anger and Rage:

Terrorism’s unjust and violent nature can provoke feelings of wrath against the perpetrators, the ideology behind the attack, and even rage against the world for allowing such tragedies to occur.

4) Guilt and Regret:

Surviving family members or friends may feel guilty or regret, wondering whether there was anything they could have done to avert the disaster or if they ignored any warning signs.

5) Existential crisis:

Survivors may face fundamental existential questions about the meaning of life, death, and the unpredictability of violence.

  • Behavioural
1) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Individuals who personally suffer or witness a terrorist attack may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is typified by flashbacks, nightmares, and great mental anguish, leading to long-term behaviour abnormalities.

2) Avoidance Behaviour:

Some persons develop avoidance behaviour in which they avoid public places or events they perceive to be potential targets, disrupting their usual routines and social activities.

3) Depression:

Terrorism can evoke feelings of despair and pessimism, particularly in those who have lost loved ones or experienced serious trauma.

4) Increased Surveillance and Security:

Authorities and governments may enforce stronger security and surveillance measures, creating concerns about privacy and civil liberties.

5) Prejudice and discrimination:

Terrorist acts can exacerbate prejudice and discrimination against specific ethnic, religious, or cultural groups, leading to social divisions and antagonism.


Social polarisation can have an impact on the origin and spread of terrorism. The split and fragmentation of society along numerous lines, such as political, religious, ethnic, or socioeconomic causes, is referred to as social polarisation. When society becomes deeply divided, it generates a climate that fosters radical views and violent behaviour. Here’s how social polarisation relates to terrorism:

1) Us vs. Them Mentality:

Social polarisation frequently results in the formation of unique “us vs. them” narratives in which various groups regard themselves as opposing one another. This worldview has the capacity to inspire extremist ideas and justify action against perceived adversaries.

2) Radicalisation:

Polarised society can provide fertile ground for individual radicalisation. Through radical doctrines, extremist groups feed on people’s complaints and feelings of marginalisation, offering them a sense of belonging and purpose.

3) Recruitment:

Extremist organisations may find it simpler to recruit new members in a polarised society. People who feel disenfranchised or alienated from mainstream society may be tempted to extreme groups that promise a feeling of identity and connection.

4) Violent Conflicts:

Social polarisation has the potential to exacerbate existing conflicts or spark new ones. When distinct groups are at odds with one another, the likelihood of violent confrontations and terrorist activities increases.

5) Role of media:

Polarisation can be intensified and maintained by media outlets, particularly those with a biased or sensationalistic style. This can aggravate tensions and foster a climate receptive to radicalisation.

Impact of Terrorism on Children

A terrorist assault can be taught to children in a variety of ways. They may witness or experience the event firsthand. They may see or hear about it on television, from other students, or from adults discussing the occurrence.

Children’s Response

Terrorist repercussions can have a significant impact on children. Following the September 11th attacks, 35% of parents said that their children were experiencing at least one stress symptom. Almost half of the parents said their children were concerned about their own or a loved one’s safety. Two years after the Oklahoma City bombing, 16% of children in the surrounding area developed PTSD. This discovery is significant because these youngsters were not directly affected by the attack, nor were they related to anyone who was killed or injured.

Following a terrorist attack, children exhibit a wide range of reactions. Many of the symptoms are identical to those that occur following any traumatic experience. Please read PTSD in Children and Adolescents for more information on how children of various ages may respond to trauma.

What puts them under higher risk –

There are two significant factors that put children at higher risk:

  • More exposure to television coverage
  • Higher parental distress

When a parent is sad, it affects their children. The youngsters are also upset. Other factors that enhance the likelihood of a youngster developing stress symptoms include being female and knowing someone who was injured or died in the assault. Continuing arousal and fear several weeks after the bombing puts a youngster at a higher risk for PTSD, according to research.

Tips to help them cope
  • Make a secure environment.
  • Give them reassurance and additional emotional support.
  • Don’t allow your youngsters to watch too much television coverage of the incident.
  • Inform children about what the government is doing.

Terrorism has far-reaching consequences for people that go far beyond the physical devastation it causes. Lives have been crushed, communities have been torn, and future generations have been impacted. Terrorism’s aftermath necessitates a multidimensional approach that includes not just security measures but also mental health support, social cohesion programmes, and economic revitalisation. Societies may build resilience and heal the wounds of violence by recognising the long-term impact of terrorism and working together, paving the way for a more peaceful and secure future.

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