Torture is a grave violation of human rights that leaves enduring psychological scars on survivors. Among the myriad of consequences, anxiety stands out as a pervasive and debilitating outcome. This article explores the intricate link between torture and anxiety, delving into the psychological aftermath of such traumatic experiences.

Understanding Torture’s Psychological Impact:

Numerous studies have highlighted the profound and lasting impact of torture on mental health. Survivors often grapple with a range of psychological disorders, with anxiety emerging as a prevalent and persistent manifestation. Research consistently underscores the severity of anxiety symptoms in torture survivors, revealing the deep-rooted trauma inflicted during these experiences.

Neurobiological research has provided valuable insights into the physiological responses triggered by torture. The stress response system, particularly the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the release of stress hormones like cortisol, plays a central role in the development of anxiety disorders post-torture. Published studies have demonstrated alterations in brain structures implicated in emotional regulation, further substantiating the neurological basis for anxiety in torture survivors.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often coexists with anxiety disorders in torture survivors. Published research has elucidated the overlap between these conditions, emphasizing the role of traumatic memories and intrusive thoughts in perpetuating anxiety. Torture survivors frequently exhibit heightened vigilance, hypervigilance, and an exaggerated startle response – all indicative of anxiety-related symptomatology associated with PTSD.

Interestingly, the link between torture and anxiety is complex and multifaceted, influenced by cultural and contextual factors. Studies exploring the cultural nuances of torture survivors reveal variations in the manifestation of anxiety symptoms. Cultural considerations become crucial in understanding the diverse ways individuals cope with and express anxiety following torture.

Implications for Treatment:

Research on the link between torture and anxiety informs therapeutic interventions for survivors. Evidence-based treatments, such as trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), have shown efficacy in addressing anxiety symptoms in this population. However, tailoring interventions to the unique needs and cultural backgrounds of survivors remains a critical aspect of effective treatment strategies.


de C Williams, A. C., & van der Merwe, J. (2013). The psychological impact of torture. British journal of pain7(2), 101–106.

Liddell, B. J., Das, P., Malhi, G. S., Felmingham, K. L., Outhred, T., Cheung, J., Den, M., Nickerson, A., Askovic, M., Aroche, J., Coello, M., & Bryant, R. A. (2022). Torture exposure and the functional brain: investigating disruptions to intrinsic network connectivity using resting state fMRI. Translational psychiatry12(1), 37.

Raghavan S. S. (2019). Cultural Considerations in the Assessment of Survivors of Torture. Journal of immigrant and minority health21(3), 586–595.

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