Fear of Terrorism Could Cause Psychosomatic Epidemic

Or so says leaked U.S. government documents.

Posted on September 16, 2008 at 1:55 PM • 29 Comments

Comments

Nick LancasterSeptember 16, 2008 2:17 PM

Apparently, there was a study where mice were exposed to a warning klaxon before a shock was applied to the floor (which they felt through their paws).

The researchers then did a little surgery and disconnected the auditory nerve ... so the mice *could not* hear the klaxon. But they nonetheless responded with a learned fear response.

We're just a notch ahead of the Eloi and the Morlocks. A society that is becoming illiterate and incapable of critical thought, but will respond dutifully to fear-mongering thugs sounding warning klaxons.

Petréa MitchellSeptember 16, 2008 3:12 PM

Given that these happen from time to time with far less dramatic triggers, I'd believe it. (For a classic account from the point of view of a doctor investigating what would turn out to be a psychosomatic outbreak, see "Sandy" in the book "The Medical Detectives". I think it may be in one of the other Roueché collections, but I can't remember for sure.)

MikeSeptember 16, 2008 3:40 PM

This is a well-known phenomenon. Hospitals know that in addition to anyone affected, they'll get the "worried well." There was in incident in Washington, D.C. just a week ago when a police officer thought he smelled something at a "suspicious package" incident and thought he felt an effect. There was nothing there, however, but a bag with shoes in it. It was a bit of an embarrasment for the department involved. (Note: It wasn't the DC Police.)

JasonSeptember 16, 2008 3:40 PM

"Americans' fear of a terrorism could create a mass outbreak of a psychosomatic illness"

I do not fear a terrorism. I do not know what a terrorism is. Need a better copy editor.

Seriously though, I must say, "Duh!" to the conclusions of the document.

Distant cousin to "excited delirium" where someone works themselves up so much they die? I don't know.

It's no secret that fear creates physical symptoms in the body thanks to our fancy chemistry releasing fight or flight hormones into the blood stream.

Also, see panic attacks which cause real symptoms.

Mike LambrellisSeptember 16, 2008 3:45 PM

Thanks, Nick. Your last paragraph has made it into my quotes file. Just too true.

bobechsSeptember 16, 2008 4:52 PM

Put the blame for this where it rightfully belongs- on the dammned terrorists. Now they have the means to attack us without even attacking us!

When will we take the gloves off and take this fight to the next level?

Clive RobinsonSeptember 16, 2008 5:10 PM

"Fear of Terrorism Could Cause Psychosomatic Epidemic"

Err correct me if I'm wrong but havn't our political lords and masters already succumbed to this epidemic?

Charles DeckerSeptember 16, 2008 6:17 PM

My wife, for years, has mocked me for my claims that some day we might have a zombie epidemic (my excuse for indulging in zombie flicks) but now I know from whence said zombie epidemic will spawn.

2MeanPFSeptember 16, 2008 8:56 PM

We had the slogan for Atomic/Nuc flash: Just duck, and cover!
Today, perhaps: just denial and firewall the mind.
Any other suggestion totally welcome.m.

One can reasonably assume, provided no countermeasures happened recently, although fighter jets may have been flying around..., that there is NO active or even half smart terrorists looking to do damage to the USA. Content quality censored for obvious reasons. You would want that anyway.

Read about Tenet and Freeh, being very anxious when y2k past without a hitch. POINT: those who have responsibilty sure SWEAT is out, a lot more than one can ever imagine...

Article title is a good central meaning pivot...Provokes revealing discussion and research. A lot more here, than some have complain about.
Luckily USA is pretty safe and active countermeasures, although our other measures are sorely lacking.

tuomoksSeptember 17, 2008 12:03 AM

Fear is real and can cause very bad, sometimes permanent, problems for a person - we tested it in army a long, long time ago. And actually in some other places I have been. The results were interesting - to get out of the imaginary fears some just need a little education what they haven't had before, some can be trained (but not trusted) but some just can't get out of their fears - the fear is too deep rooted. You can see the public panics all over!

Fear of fire, terrorist attack, nuclear war, black hole from CERN LHC, dark shadows, hell, south side of Chicago, snakes, stock crash, whatever is real (in someones mind) AND a learned instinct from parents, society, friends, school, tv ads and news, etc - not an instinct were were born with. The only instincts we (humans and animals) are born are first get food, hide, protect yourself and learn to survive by how to deal with the situation - not how to fear the problems.

Unfortunately fear clouds the clear thinking - that's why it is used for politics, marketing (FUD), getting votes, beating the enemy (who's enemy), religions, etc. It makes people to do irrational decisions and to follow blindly someone who seems to have an idea what's going on. And once the fear is started, it is easy to escalate for whatever purpose - isn't that the goal of terrorism?

Nomen PublicusSeptember 17, 2008 12:06 AM

Forgive me, but isn't it the point of "terrorism" to create a widespread but largely unjustified fear of future random deaths in the hope that governments will bow to the demands of the population to change policy in such a manner that the "terrorism" ends?

So, what is the point of the secret report?

If governments were not so afraid of explaining the true risks to the population (for example the higher risk of death when driving than flying) the population would be less likely to misjudge and be afraid of the risks of terrorism to the extent that real illnesses are generated.

averrosSeptember 17, 2008 3:11 AM

"Americans' fear of a terrorism could create a mass outbreak of a psychosomatic illness"

It already did cause widespread insanity in American public. The symptoms include voting for McCain or Obama.

ripSeptember 17, 2008 7:37 AM

I served in vietnam in 68-69, americal division. I know that fear is overcome when you just get beyond it. This comes from the group you are with, and a certain fatalistic approach, expressed by infantry as "it won't hit you if it doesn't have your number on it." Fear is for people new to the situation, after a while you adapt, and live with it.
However, the new book out called "angler" about the evil cheney, shows that fear and terrorism is the policy of our chickenhawk government.

MarkSeptember 17, 2008 7:46 AM

I witnessed an event like this about 2 years ago, working in a decent-sized (~1000 people) office in the Virginia burbs outside DC.

One or two people were suffering from eye and sinus inflammation in a large, open call center, and symptoms rapidly spread to a dozen or so people. The entire upper floor was evacuated. Terrorism was never mentioned, AFAIK, but doubtless on people's minds. Subsequent investigation found no explanation for the mystery illness.

The funny part was that while the upper floor was being evacuated, no one got around to mentioning anything to us IT goons downstairs... I only knew about it because I overheard the Telecom folks re-routing calls to another site.

One could speculate that our employers wanted to avoid spreading the contagion by power of suggestion, but I'm more inclined to think they just didn't have a clue what to do in that situation.

AlSeptember 17, 2008 8:43 AM

@ Davi - "I get nausea, difficulty breathing, and paralysis when I read about Governor Palin."

You are not alone.

Noble_SerfSeptember 17, 2008 9:23 AM

Duck and Cover is a good example here. At least it gave people something to make them feel safe.

The "duck and cover" of the post 9-11 world seems to be either:

a) go on with your life consuming things, that's what we need

or

b) report everything and everyone and be very afriad

Both sides of the asile are guilty of hyping the fear with the insanity of a 24 hour news cycle providing the fuel.

I say take down all the physical countermeasures, put the money in the real work that needs to be done and dare them to try and come get us.

Putting up truck barriers makes us look weak and scared. Plus it just fuels the insanity.

AnonymousSeptember 17, 2008 9:33 AM

I have never been afraid of a terrorist attack wounding me or my loved ones, even in the days after 9/11 I was not afraid of such. I was telling people the days after 9/11 that the number of people killed in automobile accidents or smoking related illnesses EVERY YEAR FAR surpass the number of people killed in the US due to terrorism in the past year. Yet, smokers still smoke and every adult I know still drives.

darth seussSeptember 18, 2008 12:03 AM

uh oh. I did google "belgian coke incident". you're right! dreadfully alarming news is spreading like wildfire. we should also check on: "bombay waffle conspiracy", "Arunachal Pradesh dwarf toss", "Transylvanian mudpie squafflefest", and the ever-present danger of the "muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle"

your skeptical neyborhood terroristSeptember 18, 2008 12:12 AM

(psst. i was itchy for days after the last meeting in the cave. I know it's because osama has coodies. if you ever feel a little itchiness starting somewhere, you'll know you got too close, too.)

btw, have you actually met anyone who collected on the 22 virgins they were promised?

PatrickSeptember 18, 2008 2:53 PM

"A teenage Indian girl commited suicide over her fear of a black hole being created by the LHC at CERN."

I would have told her that being sucked into a black hole is a far more interesting way to die than drinking pesticide. But nobody ever listens to me.

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