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Emotional Responses

In crises, people experience a wide range of emotional and psychological responses that influence their perception of risk. Any combination of emotions can constitute outrage, especially when these feelings are intense.

Person upset

Common emotional responses include:

People often feel angry when a disaster is intentionally inflicted, such as in a terrorist event. Anger can be an appropriate and normal response that can be channeled into stronger resolve, vigilance, or precaution-taking. But if anger turns to rage, it can be incapacitating, uncontrollable, or lead to inappropriate actions.
Fear and Dread
A certain amount of fear is appropriate, and it may motivate people to be cautious or more vigilant. A low to moderate level of fear might make people more willing to help others who are being inconvenienced, or prompt people to pay for preparedness efforts. But if people are too frightened, it can hinder their ability to take appropriate action. A very fearful person may act in extreme and sometimes irrational ways to avoid the perceived or real threat.
Misery and Depression
These emotions are most common when a crisis is catastrophic or when lives are lost. Even when people understand that they might not be in danger personally, witnessing the disaster and the toll it takes on others may propel them into a state of misery.
People commonly feel empathetic when they witness bad things happening to other people—especially via media coverage of crisis events. Empathy can motivate people to respond with help and foster a sense of solidarity.
Uncertainty makes people anxious, and they want answers during uncertain times.