Complex posttraumatic stress disorder in traumatised asylum seekers: A pilot study

Madeleine Kissane*, Lawrence Szymanski, Rachel Upthegrove, Cornelius Katona

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)
    45 Downloads (Pure)


    Background and Objectives: Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (cPTSD), a construct associated with early onset and repeated interpersonal trauma, has not previously been assessed in asylum seekers who have experienced major human rights violations. The aim of this pilot study was to describe the cPTSD symptom profile in asylum seekers, and to compare this profile between three groups of people who have experienced: human trafficking, domestic violence and/or torture.

    Methods: Over a period of eight weeks, clinicians working at the Helen Bamber Foundation charity invited 48 patients currently receiving psychotherapy to take part in the study, of whom 30 (62.5%) agreed. The structured interview for disorders of extreme stress (SIDES) was used to assess cPTSD in 29 asylum seekers, as one patient withdrew during the interview.

    Results: Participants originated from 18 countries, 72.4% were female, the median age at trauma onset was 17 years and the duration of trauma was ten years. Eight (27.6%) participants were found to have cPTSD, defined as having all six symptom clusters, and 15 (51.7%) had five or more cPTSD symptom clusters. Age at trauma onset, duration of trauma, last trauma experience, gender and trauma type were not found to be associated with cPTSD presence.

    Conclusions: Extensive cPTSD symptoms were common in all participants, regardless of the nature of the trauma experienced. Future research is needed to enable generalisability of cPTSD symptom profile in asylum seekers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)137-144
    Number of pages8
    JournalEuropean Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


    • Asylum seekers
    • Complex posttraumatic stress disorder
    • Domestic violence
    • Human trafficking
    • Interpersonal trauma
    • Torture

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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