Controllability awareness in professionals under the threat of terror: Chronic versus acute community stress

Eli Somer, Aviva Zrihan Weitzman, Josephine Todrank Heth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following a terror attack, Israeli teachers are often required to debrief their students and support them while having to cope personally with the community threat. This study aimed to advance the understanding of factors associated with improved coping under threat. "Controllability awareness," being attentive to what is and is not controllable in one’s environment, is associated with tolerance for stresses of daily life. Here controllability awareness was assessed as a predictor of effective coping among schoolteachers in potentially traumatic stress situations in a community during acute stress (just after a Katyusha rocket attack) or chronic stress (ongoing threat of pending border hostilities). Correlations of scores on the Controllability Awareness Inventory with several self-report measures of adverse outcomes indicated that general controllability awareness was significantly associated with lower perceived stress and fewer psychological symptoms during both chronic and acute stress and also significantly predicted physical symptoms and the impact of the stressful event during chronic stress. Controllability awareness measured specifically in relation to emergencies correlated significantly with perceived stress and symptoms in both situations. As teachers who experience fewer adverse outcomes during community stress are more likely to be effective in managing the effects of stress on their students, the association between controllability awareness and effective responses suggests that controllability awareness training may enhance coping efficacy among support-providing professionals under chronic and acute stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Trauma Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004


  • Acute stress
  • Chronic stress
  • Controllability
  • Physical and psychological symptoms
  • Stress tolerance
  • Teachers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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