• Vol. 29 No. 5, 658–664
  • 15 September 2000

Psychological Trauma, Physical Health and Somatisation



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The aim of this review is to examine the relationship between trauma, physical health and somatisation. A search was made on the Procite Database at the Department of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences for research articles with the following key words: posttraumatic stress disorder, somatisation, trauma (the Procite Database holds more than 15,000 articles related to trauma and disaster). A review of the current research findings show a link between prior exposure to traumatic events (such as war, disaster, motor vehicles and industrial accidents, crime and sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse) and subsequent physical heath and medical care utilisation. Possible mechanisms and conceptualisations which may explain the association between trauma and physical health, such as high-risk health behaviours, neurobiology, alexithymia and culture are discussed. Because traumatised persons show high medical utilisation, good screening, thorough assessment, empirically-based treatment and appropriate referral of such patients are essential.

Trauma does not respect persons or culture. While Singapore is fortunate to have been spared large-scale disaster and war for decades, it has nevertheless had its share of traumatic incidents.

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