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Cult Med Psychiatry. 1991 Jun;15(2):167-92.

Emotional distress and its socio-political correlates in Salvadoran refugees: analysis of a clinical sample.

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Comitan Center for Health Research, Hospital General de Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico.


The emotional distress responses of refugees cannot be adequately understood using the traditional notions of stress and adaptation. In these populations it is necessary to consider the relations between emotional distress and socio-political context, particularly the processes of terror and intimidation and the conditions of migratory illegality and social marginality. This study analyses the patterns of emotional distress in a clinical sample of 71 Salvadoran refugees in an urban center of the United States. Case histories are presented and patterns of trauma, distress and associated life problems analyzed. It is argued that distress patterns reflect the particular socio-political conditions of women and men and represent the embodiment of the conflicts that refugees face. The concept of illness is used to link distress patterns and socio-political context and to avoid the reductionism of psychiatric categories.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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