R E T R A U M A T I Z A T I O N 

Causes, Duraction and Symptomatic of Chronic Reactions after Trauma

This project investigates the influence of new traumatically experienced events on the already existing symptoms. This includes the identification and differentiation of potential causes. Retraumatization is to be classified according to the severity and the duration of the symptoms, thereby aiming for a standard use of the term Retraumatization.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that often appears after traumatic events. In order to describe a worsening of PTSD, which can occur in conjunction with the experience of new and traumatic situations, the term retraumatization is used.
This term, retraumatization, is used in situations concerning legal matters, residency rights and therapeutic treatments in superfluous/disproportionate way; however, there is not yet a standard definition of the term. It is used to describe a mild or temporary worsening of PTSD, as well for more severe and persistent cases. Furthermore, aggravating situations (retraumatizing events) have not yet been uniformly identified or defined.

Refugees are particularly susceptible to retraumatization. These persons are at greater risk of experiencing life-threatening events like war, abuse or torture and are therefore a particularly vulnerable group concerning the development of psychological illnesses or disorders. PSTD is one such disorder that often occurs after experiencing such traumatic events as those just mentioned. The lifetime-prevalence of PTSD amongst refugees, that is, the likelikhood that during their lifetime they will suffer from PTSD, is said to be between 17 and 65%. Stress factors after migration, so-called post-migration factors, and new traumatic experiences after the initial escape interfere with recovery, processing and compensation processes. Above all, the uncertainty of the right to stay in a new country, and the associated legal and residency assessments, whereby refugees are often required to recall their experiences of persecution, during this process, can lead to the worsening of their symptoms and the development of PTSD-symptoms.


Due to the complex nature of the term "retraumatization" a number of individual studies have been planned. At the Center of the study is a prospective longitudinal study involving survivors of war and torture at the Center ÜBERLEBEN. Every 6 months the various post-traumatic stress symptoms are to be assessed. Additionally, a list of possible retraumatizing "life-events" will be collected, simultaneously when possible, in order to establish a comprehensive understanding of PTSD symptomatic.
An adjoining study will examine the effects of being questioned at the Federal Office or taking part in court proceedings before an administrative court on an individual's symptomatic.


This research project aims to identify and differentiate possible factors that bring about retraumatization, as well as to classify the traumatic processes that have been elicited according to severity and duration of the symptomatic. Special consideration will be made concerning the use of the term in conjunctions with clinical assessments in matters of rights of foreigners and residency.

Cooperation Partner

Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich

Contact Person

Katrin Schock, Dipl.-Psych.
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