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Risk factors for Trauma and Torture-Related Disorders

In considering who may be at heightened risk for developing psychological problems, one must evaluate both general/overall risk factors as well as those risk factors specific to traumatised populations including how trauma affects family and social relationships and other natural supports. The general risk factors for developing mental illness are based on age, sex, education, social class, divorced/widowed status, history of mental illness, and family history of mental illness. Additional risk factors for torture survivors include torture, war, political oppression, imprisonment, witnessing or experiencing atrocities, loss of family and/or separation from family, and distortion of social relationships. If the torture survivor is also a refugee or asylum seeker, he/she has the further risk factors of migration (loss of home, loved ones, possessions, etc), acculturation, poverty, prejudice, cultural beliefs and traditional roles, cultural and linguistic isolation, absence of adequate support systems, and unemployment or underemployment. The multiple layers of increasing risk present a clinical picture that has been described by as one of “cumulative synergistic adversity.”