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Pain from torture

by A. C d C Williams, Kirstine Amris
Pain ()


Torture is understood by international law as the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering by or with the consent of the state authorities for a specific purpose. Challenging torture therefore entails not only reparation to the individual, robbed of human rights and often of a sense of health and humanity, but challenging the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. This review focuses on health care, specifically on pain problems in the torture survivor. Health care professionals are most likely to encounter torture survivors as refugees and asylum seekers. They are described as survivors both to recognize the majority, who die, and the resilience and resources of most of those who do not. Studies indicate a high prevalence of persistent pain in survivors of torture, with overall estimates as high as 83%. Commonest is headache, from 39% to 93%. Multiple pains are common. Disclosure of torture is difficult for many reasons, including fear and distrust of anyone in a position of authority, anticipation of adverse judgment, and avoidance of thinking or speaking about it. The relationship between pain and post-trauma stress symptoms needs exploration, paying attention to methodological concerns and questions of cultural applicability of the PTSD construct, and challenging premature statements about best treatment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

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