Typical Mental Health Disorders That Refugees Develop

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Becoming a refugee is something that nobody can ever envision happening to themselves. One day, you are going through your regular activities as usual. You pay your taxes on time; you try to live without stepping over anyone. However, if a war erupts or a deadly typhoon ruins your place and livelihood, none of that will matter. If you refuse to stay in shelters, you may end up fleeing the country and becoming refugees in a stronger, more stable nation.

The thing is, the process of relocating is never as easy as it seems. One highly documented story is the escape of Syrians from their homeland to Europe. Due to the chaos in Syria, many do not have the means to take a legal route and book a flight to their target destination. They usually need to pay thousands of dollars to get smuggled into another country via small boats, buses, or sometimes even covered trucks.

For more than 25 years, researchers and clinicians generally assumed that war exposure was the critical determinant influencing refugees’ well-being. This led to lots of studies assessing exposure to wartime violence and loss, with limited consideration of the chronic adversity experienced by refugees after leaving their homeland. — Kenneth E. Miller Ph.D.

What Syrians experience, though, is almost the same as what other asylum seekers are willing to undergo to ensure their safety and future. They are fearless indeed, but it is typical for refugees to develop the following mental health disorders because of it too.

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The reality that displaced individuals and families need to face is undoubtedly a challenge to accept immediately. You may have a stable career in your country, for instance, yet you need to take odd jobs in the new one to get by. You want to be at least able to visit any relative who got left behind, but you know that is not possible.

Because of that, it seems too natural for these people to acquire depression. According to statistics, this mental disorder occurs as much as PTSD. Usually, they also comorbid with each other, hence increasing the problem of the refugees.

African civilians in war-torn countries have experienced the threat of violence or death, and many have witnessed the abuse, torture, rape, and even murder of loved ones. As a result, many Congolese living in Ugandan refugee camps are suffering from severe PTSD. — Rick Nauert PhD


The primary condition that asylum seekers tend to deal with is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This illness is not only common for veterans of war but also for the regular citizens who happened to get caught in the middle of the battle. You can never get used to bombings and shootings, after all. The more you experience it, the more trauma sticks to you, to the extent that you cannot shake it off anymore.

Based on an International Journal of Mental Health Systems study in 2017, it appears that 40 percent of the refugees in various countries live with PTSD. Men, women, and children – they carry the same disorder. That is quite worrying since the disease is known to make someone paranoid or develop hostile tendencies that might put themselves or others in danger if left untreated.

Post-Migration Stress

As mentioned earlier, the road to freedom is not smooth for all the refugees. It is ideal if you have relatives or friends in the country where you intend to go. They can take you in or even provide legal documents so that you won’t need to tread the waters in a small boat or transact with lawless folks. However, in case you know nobody there, you may have no other option but the latter.

This nightmarish experience can cause anyone to develop post-migration stress. It does not help either that no home or job is waiting for them in the new nation.

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…mental health professionals have been working in tandem with social workers, medical doctors, language teachers and specially trained interpreters to provide comprehensive, multifaceted care for the refugees. According to Dr. Nadine Stammel who leads the research department of the Berlin Center Of Torture Victims (BZFO), this multi-modal approach has had positive outcomes, with preliminary findings showing a decrease in trauma-related disorders and an increase in quality of life. — Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a refugee is much worse than being homeless. The displacement entails that you have to leave everything you hold dear – e.g., your home, friends,and career – behind. You need to handle the fact that you will forever be indebted to the country that accepted you and your family. Furthermore, the possibility of returning to your roots may be dire unless the commotion there stops. Thus, it seems like dodging the refugees and their mental health disorders above may not be a cakewalk.

If you know an asylum seeker who developed a psychological condition due to the dangers he or she escaped from their homeland, you should try to help him or her in any way. Good luck!