Experiencing a terror attack can be described as an acute traumatic experience. It means that a person has experienced an extremely threatening situation, where their own life and health, or that of others, was at risk, and that they have been subject to extreme stress. The word trauma means injury or wound, and a psychological trauma can persist for a very long time.
Experiencing a traumatic event like a terror attack will trigger a panic-like fear and strong physical reactions in most people, such as increased heartbeat, shortness of breath and sweating. Any horrific sensory impressions will intensify the sense of being in mortal danger, and exacerbate the reactions. Even after the event is over, it can be difficult to regain a sense of security, and strong physical reactions can continue to occur after the event.
Compared with a natural disaster, which can be described as a more random tragedy, victims of a terror attack can find it more difficult to move on and recover. This is because a terror attack is an intentional act, often with a planned and deliberate target. Man-made disasters can lead to people losing trust in others, self-respect, and developing feelings of hate and revenge, feelings that do not necessarily accompany a natural disaster.
Traumatic events can lead to health issues and illness among those who experience or in other ways are affected by the event. They can also experience long-term mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress issues and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Dyb, G. & Jensen, T.K. (ed.) (2019). Å leve videre etter katastrofen. Stressreaksjoner og oppfølging etter traumer. Oslo: Gyldendal.