With every new terror attack, French citizens stoically declare that “life goes on”, but despite this show of defiance, a creeping anxiety has taken hold of society.
Outwardly, the French summer is in full swing, restaurant and bar terraces — targeted in a November attack on Paris — are packed and vibrant, beaches are covered with sunseekers and streets as busy as ever.
However beneath the surface, many are feeling the strain after a string of terror attacks over the past 18 months.
“There is a cumulative effect. At first (a terror attack) is an unexpected event, but now we are in a situation where we fear it happening again,” said Evelyne Josse, a Belgium-based psychologist and trauma expert.
Users of a popular French online medical forum describe panic attacks on the metro, being paralysed with fear at the prospect of taking trains to go on holiday or going to the beach, with one woman writing she feels that going out in a crowd is like playing Russian Roulette.