Terrorism involves the illegal use or threatened use of violence, is intended to coerce societies or governments by inducing fear in their populations, and typically involves ideological and political motives. The attacks on September 11, 2001, have made Americans acutely aware of the devastation of terrorism. As the nation engages in the "war on terrorism", the psychological health of the public must not be neglected.
Terrorism, whether in the form of a mass physical attack or a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear event, can be psychologically devastating. Psychological consequences include an array of emotional, behavioral and cognitive reactions. People may experience insomnia, fear, anxiety, vulnerability, anger, increased alcohol consumption, or smoking, and a minority will develop psychiatric illnesses such as posttraumatic stress disorder or depression. The number of people affected and the severity of consequences will vary according to the type and intensity of the event. The broad nature of these consequences demands a full public health response.