Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Encephale. 2014 Mar 22. pii: S0013-7006(14)00038-4. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2013.11.001. [Epub ahead of print]

[Psychopathology of asylum seekers in Europe, trauma and defensive functioning.]

[Article in French]

Author information

  • 1Laboratoire de psychologie médicale et de psychopathologie, pôle AAFE, université de Bourgogne, Esplanade Erasme, 21000 Dijon, France.
  • 2Laboratoire de psychologie médicale et de psychopathologie, pôle AAFE, université de Bourgogne, Esplanade Erasme, 21000 Dijon, France. Electronic address: Khadija.Chahraoui@u-bourgogne.fr.


Refugees seeking asylum are a particularly vulnerable population. It has been observed that among the most commonly-occurring disorders exhibited in this population, there is a high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression. These disorders may be linked to the difficult paths that refugees are forced to undertake, as well as to different traumatic events which are particularly destructive psychologically (deliberate physical, sexual and/or psychological violence, traumatic bereavements in the context of war, or social and political instability, socio-economic, familial or administrative difficulties), which compromise their view of their short-term futures. In the face of the weight of these life events, the question of the psychological resources of the individual is at the forefront of our understanding of mental health and the capacity to adjust to trauma. Our study aims to apprehend in a dynamic way, the different strategies used by asylum seekers in our western countries to adjust psychologically to traumatic and stressful events. The aim of this research is to study the links between mental health and anxious and depressive psychopathologies as well as the defensive modalities of these subjects. One hundred and twenty adult asylum seekers, living in refugee centres in Slovakia, France and Norway have agreed to participate in this study. We tried to assess the psychopathological disorders manifesting in these populations, notably PTSD, major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Using the DSQ-60 we also tried to establish the links between the psychopathologies observed in this population and the defence mechanisms employed. Our results reveal that 60 % of subjects do indeed suffer from psychopathological disorders with an important comorbidity of PTSB and depression (64.2 %). Furthermore, the seriousness of the symptoms is correlated with less adaptive defence mechanisms (a higher incidence of defence mechanisms such as acting-out and distorted self-image). The recourse to mechanisms such as affiliation, repression and idealization is found to be used less by the study's target group. Rather, they tend to resort to defence mechanisms such as projection, low self-esteem, withdrawal, acting-out and hypochondria. Our results highlight the importance of the affiliation mechanism, which holds the potential to facilitate adaptation and resilience in these vulnerable subjects. It could also be offered as part of a therapeutic care proposal.

Copyright © 2014 L’Encéphale, Paris. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.


Ajustement psychologique; Anxiété; Asylum seekers; Defences; Demandeurs d’asile; Depression; Défenses; Dépression; Expériences traumatiques; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Psychological adjustment; Traumatic experiences; État de stress post-traumatique

[PubMed - as supplied by publisher]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Icon for Masson (France)
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk