Across the globe, terrorist attacks kill and wound thousands of men, women, and children each year while concurrently causing massive social, political, and economic damage. Images portray devastating aftermath of explosions, drone strikes, and often terrifying depictions of mass destruction done to infrastructure, and in such a context, it would be natural to expect that the fear and threat of terrorism would have a crippling psychological effect on society. In some respects, the evidence is surprisingly optimistic. Even in the wake of catastrophic attacks such those on September 11th, 2001, American society overall displayed a quick recovery. In the days immediately after the attacks, stress reactions and anxiety were very common and obviously severely prevalent, but these symptoms did not persist in a manner as to depict absolute loss; there was work to be done, and it was going to be completed as one nation.
In the case of Northern Ireland terrorist attacks were occurring on a daily basis and the expectation was that fear itself would have a lasting detrimental impact on the public social sphere during initial stages of conflict in the 1970s. Tremendous fear arose among the public who felt increased violence occurring as a result of the fear from terrorism would cripple Northern Ireland psychologically as well as severely alter the societal structure. The psychological collapse of the population, however, never happened (Curran; 1998). Even at the height of the troubles, again, Northern Irish society displayed a remarkable resilience to the violence.
This is not to say that society as a whole showed complete immunity to the effects of frequent terrorist attacks. It was very clear that while Northern Irish society on a whole seemed to have escaped with relatively low levels of loss from violence, aspects of certain social spheres within the nation did show signs of suffering. Proximity to terrorist violence was an important factor, on average, the closer one was to an attack, the more of an impact was felt. Suffering physical injuries as a result of an attack was strongly associated with increased psychological trauma in which survivors of terrorist attacks often show high levels of PTSD.
In the face of fear itself, individuals identified more strongly with the community around them. In the wake of terrorist attacks, always with the threat of further attacks to come, Northern Irish communities bonded closer together, providing increased support to an extending network of members contributing to the public social sphere as a whole. The result was that the psychological ill effects felt by the direct victims of terrorism could be buffered by a state of increased support which rebounded psychological well-being in the entire community.
Curran, Andrew. “Ireland in the Late 1960s and 1970s.” Ireland in the Late 1960s and 1970s. N.p., 12 Apr. 1998. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.