FITS: Fear of Invisible Threats Syndrome

Historically, populations have always feared invisible threats. For many in the world, the invisible threats have multiplied and are continuing to do so. From the fear that one’s child will be kidnapped and sold into the human trafficking network or conscripted into a militia, to the fear that no place or person is safe from terrorists, many otherwise “safe” people in the world have become gripped in a spiral of heightened attention to attacks of so many kinds. What we see accumulating evidence of, and what we can surmise from that evidence, is that the number and scale of invisible threats are increasing, and more people are being caught up in knowing about, dealing with or worrying about those threats. Perhaps this has something to do with the finding that lesser educated white middle-aged U.S. males are committing suicide and experiencing morbidity rates much higher than any other demographic group. They report more pain, more financial distress, addiction to opioids and alcohol, difficulty socializing and inability to work. The rise in fearing invisible threats invariably leads to the demagoguery of leaders and politicians, and in authoritarian messaging. When people are cumulatively and sufficiently frightened, they are willing to give up individual liberties in order to be offered protection and safety.

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