Untreated organized violence-related PTSD and its persistence throughout the lifespan: a theoretical synthesis

Dana Bichescu-Burian


When psychological effects of severe trauma, such as organized violence and torture are left untreated, there is a high probability that these problems persist throughout the lifespan and exacerbate in old age. This paper reviews and analyses empirical evidence on adverse long-term effects of organized violence. A substantial proportion of survivors suffers from chronic, long-lasting mental and physical impairments. Research shows the long-term course of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as being characterized by possible remissions and relapses, with old age representing a particularly vulnerable period among victims who experienced organized violence earlier in life. Our own findings on former political prisoners in Romania confirm this pattern by showing that PTSD and other clinical conditions persisted, often over four decades, in a significant rate of the survivors, showing that psychological consequences evidently outlast the change of the political regime. Research has also revealed some factors and mechanisms of these symptom fluctuations across the lifespan. These results have far-reaching implications for understanding and treating persons affected by severe adversities. Future research should employ improved methods and available knowledge for broader and more thorough study of lifetime effects.

PTSD, organized violence, old age, long-term impairments, symptom persistence and exacerbation

Dana Bichescu-Burian – Knowledge Based Society, Iaşi, Romania; University of Ulm, Medical Faculty / Centre for Psychiatry Südwürttemberg, Germany, E-mail: DanaMaria.BichescuBurian@ZfP-Zentrum.de

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