Living with the Chronic Threat of Terrorism

Dickstein, B. D., Schorr, Y., Stein, N., Krantz, L. H., Solomon, Z., & Litz, B. T. (2012). Coping and mental health outcomes among Israelis living with the chronic threat of terrorism. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(4), 392-399.

With the goal of identifying the coping strategies used by individuals who face the chronic threat of terrorism, Dickstein and colleagues (2012) administered a structured telephone interview to Israeli citizens living near the Gaza border – a region that is frequently the target of rocket and mortar attacks. Seven coping factors were identified and the relationship between these factors and mental health outcomes was investigated. Three factors were associated with increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. These were denial/disengagement, substance use, and social support seeking. One factor, acceptance/positive reframing, was associated with decreased levels of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and stress. The link between social support seeking and poorer mental health outcomes seems surprising, but is supported in previous research on coping with the threat of terrorism. The authors proposed that in situations where the threat is ongoing, discussing it with others may only fuel anxiety and stress. They suggested that future research examine specific components of social support (e.g., emotional, instrumental) rather than assess social support as a global construct.

Making Connections

Mental health
Social support
Stress and coping

Media Supplement

The following are links to mental health programs designed to address the psychological effects of living with the chronic threat of terrorism. The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme works to “enhance the capacity of the [Palestinian] community in dealing with mental health problems based on the principles of justice, humanity, and respect for human rights.” The Israeli Psychotrauma Center treats trauma survivors and trains mental health professionals in trauma treatment methods.