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What is Psychological Terrorism?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Psychological terrorism is typically a form of terrorism that primarily targets people’s psychological well being and state of mind, with the intent of having a negative impact on those people. This can take a number of different forms, and may be fairly benign and easily ignored or more severe and adversely affect numerous other psychological issues or disorders. As a form of terrorism, it can be used directly and purposefully or it can be a side effect of other actions that do not seek to inflict terror upon people, but ultimately are able to do so.

Terrorism is typically regarded as any type of action or effort made with the express or indirect purpose of causing fear and terror in other people as a result of those actions. There are a number of different forms of terrorism, and the end result of all such forms is usually the infliction of sufficient duress upon a target to leave lasting fear or fearful memories. Physical terrorism, for example, would constitute a type of attack that could harm a person or populace in a very clear way, but would continue to linger as a source of fear or dread for those affected by or witness to the assault.

Psychological terrorism is a form of attack which may leave no physical marks or impact upon a person or group of people, but ultimately leaves psychological injuries or traumas that have a lasting impact. This term can be applied to a number of different things, from psychological warfare, to torture, and even fear-focused news broadcasting. Psychological warfare can be a form of terrorism since it can leave residual fear or panic impulses in a target. If someone is bombarded with relentless music at high volume for extensive periods of time, that music could later trigger a fear response in that person.

This process has then created lasting terror responses in the subject, and can therefore be considered a form of psychological terrorism. Violent actions such as torture can also be considered forms of psychological terrorism. For example, research has demonstrated that “waterboarding” often leaves a subject with an innate fear of the sensation of flowing water. This can lead to panic attacks triggered by innocuous things like rain or even washing off in a shower.

News broadcasting that focuses primarily on “scare tactics” and fear of what could happen if the show is not viewed can also be seen as a form of psychological terrorism. People who constantly watch programs that highlight nothing but negative aspects of society, such as viruses, wars, and violent crime, may find themselves more prone to focusing on such things and living in constant fear. Though this is not guaranteed, it should still be considered by news professionals looking to ensure professional conduct and useful messages for viewers.

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Discussion Comments
By anon979010 — On Nov 23, 2014

Terrorism is a problem of logic -- the logic of terrorists about any event. Their future dream is different from others, therefore he is committed and ready to do anything.

By anon957070 — On Jun 18, 2014

I am under constant psychological abuse by my husband. We have been married for 38 years. He has had a real lover for the same number of years and two kids from his mistress. I do not know how that woman's husband happened to die, but I have a feeling that I am next on their list.

Now I do not know what to do as I am poor and live in Hungary, and like most abused women I am isolated from even my own children emotionally and I have a psychiatric diagnosis saying I suffer from schizo-affective depression. I am deeply distressed and have developed panic attacks, but I am not schizophrenic.

I cannot turn to anybody for help, for in my country ( Hungary) nobody would give credit to my words. I just feel hopeless. What can I do? Just pray?

By anon944289 — On Apr 07, 2014

I got into a dispute with someone I now think is a psychopath. Over a period of 13 years they tried to kick in the front door, and harassed me with phone calls and legal letters. They put me into a state where I felt that I was likely to be murdered. In that state of constant fear, my true personality seems to have oused away. My old self has disappeared. I no longer care about anything. I leave important things undone. No career plans. No house repairs. I have no emotions. I have lost contact with my old self and am a thing going through the motions of living and have ceased to worry about my future.

By anon925510 — On Jan 12, 2014

Psychological terrorism has been going on in my workplace for years. One indicator of this is a relatively high turnover rate and employees entertaining other careers.

If your boss is constantly telling you negative things about other employees or people, this is a red flag. Our minds are set up to attempt to confirm negative information about others versus critically evaluating the information. This predisposes people to being manipulated into believing something incorrect about another person.

So what, you may be saying? The big problem with this is it can create unneeded conflict and stress in the workplace. Why do some bosses do this? They do it so they can come along and resolve the issue, which makes them look good, feel in control, and feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, this creates an environment where employees are constantly watching their backs and afraid to speak up about issues or ideas to improve effectiveness because they fear rumors will be started about them.

Another psychological terror tactic implemented in the workplace is a boss constantly making statements explicitly or implicitly indicating your job is not stable or may go away. This creates fear in employees that they may lose their jobs at any time. This can contribute to other stressors in the workplace creating a highly stressful environment.

In conclusion, the worst case is the instability of the job, fear, and conflict created in the workplace for employees can lead to psychological problems, hopelessness, high turnover, lack of job satisfaction, workplace violence and even suicide.

By anon925108 — On Jan 09, 2014

Leadership in the workplace that exhibits high levels of narcissism is predisposed to promoting fear and disrupting others well-being. Those who terrorize others do so in efforts to maintain a positive self-concept through attempting to maintain a self-esteem that is not secure.

The narcissist will stop at nothing to maintain a positive self-concept, no matter what the effects are on those around them. Nothing is ever their fault and they will blame anyone to ensure they do not have to deal with being wrong about something. There are options for those being exposed to this type of behavior, which can be detrimental to a person’s well-being .

By eagle — On Jul 30, 2013

The worst psychological terrorism that I believe exists in the world today, is what is professed to be Christian, or "the Bible", but really is not. There exists an exceedingly great and evil, mass deception regarding the Bible. Therefore, in the name of God so-called evangelists, ministers, etc. appearing as if they are "bearers of good news", yet preaching condemnation, manipulate people to adhere to certain doctrines and practices out of fear and guilt. They preach a supposed escape from God's just punishment (the idea is absolutely ridiculous), through propagating the fear of eternal damnation. How absolutely awful, especially since that the message of the Bible is the exact opposite of this - one of justification for mankind.

The good news actually being: "God has given us the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ, and eternal life is love." There is no damnation in this message whatsoever. It is only good news, and beneficial for mankind to believe. Thus the "good news" in the Bible is not a threat. Its message appeals to any sincere and truly good human being.

By anon327454 — On Mar 28, 2013

Is it possible to file a lawsuit for damages caused by psychological terrorism?

By anon253016 — On Mar 07, 2012

Threats of "eternal damnation", or that something is constantly watching you also fall under psychological terrorism.

By JavaGhoul — On Dec 23, 2010

A nation's propaganda may employ psychological terrorism to scare people into obedience of a dictator or doctrine. Often people are forced to appear happy and grateful to such a leader under fear of being sent away to torture camps. This is a very fearful environment to live in, and it dominates entire countries.

By Armas1313 — On Dec 22, 2010

Sometimes a random or capricious authority figure can inflict terror on people for reasons which even he might not fully understand. When someone with serious undiagnosed psychological problems is in an authority position, oftentimes a lot of psychological terror occurs, which can be very damaging to a work environment and relationships.

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