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The Danish Center of Psychotraumatology

Research area

Illness, Health and Grief

The research area 'Illness, Health and Grief' covers the centre's research on trauma in connection with chronic diseases, such as epilepsy and pain. The research covers both trauma among those suffering from a chronic disease and trauma among carers, including parents of chronically ill children. You will also find research on grief reactions, for example, in connection with the loss of a loved one due to illness or infant death. You can also get an overview of the centre's research on early trauma and related eating behaviour, including child abuse and disordered eating.

The Danish Center of Psychotraumatology is currently involved in a project investigating hormonal factors in the development of trauma reactions. We are also participating in a major international project investigating the correlation between different types of pain and early childhood abuse.

Below you will find an overview of current and completed projects within the research area. You can click through to a detailed description of each project by clicking on the project title.

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Projects related to the research area:


Ongoing projects

The project is a collaboration with the emergency room at Esbjerg Hospital and aims to investigate hormonal factors in the development of trauma reactions - especially by looking at whether there are gender differences and whether specific hormones play a role in the development of PTSD.
We are collaborating with Maja O'Connor from the Department of Psychology in Aarhus to validate grief scales for the new WHO diagnosis, prolonged grief reaction.


O'Connor, M., Vang, M. L., Shevlin, M., Elklit, A., Komischke-Konnerup, K. B., Lundorff, M., & Bryant, R. (2023). Development and validation of the Aarhus PGD scale for operationalizing ICD-11 and DSM-5-TR TR Prolonged Grief Disorder. Journal of affective disorders, 342, 201–209. Doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2023.09.022

Komischke-Konnerup, K. B., Vang, M. L., Lundorff, M., Elklit, A., & O'Connor, M. (2023). Do early symptoms of prolonged grief disorder lead to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression? A longitudinal register-based study of the two first years of bereavement. Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1037/abn0000859

Vang, M. L., Prigerson, H. G., Elklit, A., Komischke-Konnerup, K. B., & O'Connor, M. (2022). Do we all grieve the same? A multigroup test of the dimensional structure of prolonged grief disorder among Danish bereaved partners and children. Psychiatry research, 318, 114937. Doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2022.114937

Completed projects

The overall aim of this PhD research project was to investigate a number of factors in outpatient psychiatric patients. These factors are based on the new diagnostic criteria for PTSD and complex PTSD (C-PTSD) in ICD-11: Traumatic experiences, dissociation, personality traits and level of functioning. The research project aims to learn more about the disorder, which can follow complex post-traumatic reactions to both severe, prolonged and simple traumatic experiences in adult life. This knowledge can facilitate the selection and adaptation of treatment modalities, which can lead to a better prognosis of the treatment effect. The PhD project was led by Lise Møller and Region Zealand. Data collection takes place in psychiatry in Region Zealand.


Publications related to the PhD project:
Møller, L., Meisner, M. W., Søgaarg, U., Elklit, A., & Simonsen, E. (2021). Assessment of Personality Functioning in ICD-11 PTSD and Complex PTSD. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment. Doi: 10.1037/per0000491

Møller, L., Søgaard, U., Elklit, A., & Simonsen, E. (2021). Differences between ICD-11 PTSD and Complex PTSD on DSM-5 section III personality traits. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. Doi. 10.1080/20008198.2021.1894806

Møller, L., Søgaard, U., Elklit, A., & Simonsen, E. (2021) Differences between ICD-11 PTSD and complex PTSD on DSM-5 section III personality traits, European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12:1, Doi: 10.1080/20008198.2021.1894805

Møller, L., Augsburger, M., Elklit, A., Søgaard, U., & Simonsen, E. (2020). Traumatic experiences, ICD-11 PTSD & Complex PTSD and the overlap with ICD-10 diagnoses. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia, 1-11. Doi: 10.1111/acps.13161.

Additional relevant publications:
Hyland, P., Murphy, J., Shevlin, M., Vallieres, F., McElroy, E., Elklit, A., Christoffersen, M. & Cloitre, M. (2017): Variation in post-traumatic response: the role of trauma type in predicting ICD-11 PTSD and CPTSD symptoms. Social Psychiatry Psychiatric Epidemioligy. Doi: 10.1007/s00127-017-1350-8

Murphy, S., Elklit, A., Dokkedahl, S. & Shevlin, M. (2016). Testing the validity of the proposed ICD-11 PTSD and complex PTSD criteria using a sample from Nothern Uganda. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. Doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v7.32678

Andersen, T. E., Hansen, M., Ravn, S. L., Seehus, R., Nielsen, M., & Vægter, H. B.(2017). Validation of the PTSD-8 scale in chronic pain patients. Pain Medicine, 19(7), 65-72. Doi: 10.1093/pm/pnx166

5–15% of people with concussion experience post-concussion symptoms (PCS) >3 months post-injury. The etiology of PCS is complex, with interacting biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Attachment styles (AS) is grounded in childhood and activated when one is exposed to stressful situations in order to feel secure. AS may be important to understand how interpersonal processes affect the development of PCS and illness responses. The aim of this study was to explore the associations between AS, illness perception, illness behavior and symptom reporting in young persons with a recent concussion.


Tuborgh, A., Svendsen, S. W., Elklit, A., Hunter, J., Ørnbøl, E., Jensen, J. S., Schröder, A., Nielsen, J. F., Næss-Schmidt, E. T., Thastum, M. M. & Rask, C. U. (2023). Does insecure attachment affect treatment outcome in young persons with post-concussion symptoms? A secondary analysis of the GAIN trial. Journal of Psycosomatic Research. Doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2022.111100

Tuborgh, A., Svendsen, S. W., Elklit, A., Hunter, J., Jensen, J. S., Schröder, A., Nielsen, J. F., Thastum, M. M., Næss-Schmidt, E. T., & Rask, C. U. (2021). Attachment and symptom reporting in adolescents and young adults after a concussion. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 150. Doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2021.110603.

Tuborgh, A., Svendsen, S. W., Schröder, A., Elklit, A., Hunter, J. & Rask, C. U., jun. (2019). Attachment style and symptom reporting in young persons with concussion. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 121, 123. Doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2019.03.072


This project seeks to map the prevalence of stressors in families with children with epilepsy in order to highlight factors that may influence family resources and child well-being. Currently, there are few studies that highlight the relationship between the complex factors that a child with epilepsy is at risk of being affected by and the parents' potential development of stress-related reactions and symptoms. With projects, we hope to be able to disseminate knowledge about relevant areas of intervention for individual families, so that the children's network can be offered better guidance in handling the family's situation than is currently possible.


Jakobsen, A. V., & Elklit, A. (2021). Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in children with severe epilepsy. Epilepsy & behavior, 122. Doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2021.108217

Jakobsen, A. V., & Elklit, A. (2021). Self-control and coping responses are mediating factors between child behavior difficulties and parental stress and family impact in caregivers of children with severe epilepsy. Epilepsy & behavior, 122. Doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2021.108224

Jakobsen, A. V., & Elklit, A. (2021). Self-control and coping responses are mediating factors between child behavior difficulties and parental stress and family impact in caregivers of children with severe epilepsy. Epilepsy & behavior : E&B, 122, 108224. Advance online publication. Doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2021.108224

Jakobsen, A. V., Møller, R. S., Nikanorova, M., & Elklit, A. (2020). The impact of severe pediatric epilepsy on experienced stress and psychopathology in parents. Epilepsy & behavior, 113, 107538. Doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.107538

The project investigated the effectiveness of a recovery programme after intensive care. The recovery programme was designed to improve quality of life and mental health, but had no effect, according to the study.


Jensen, J., Egerod, I., Overgaard, D., Bestle, M., Elklit, A., Jakobsen, L.S. & Laurid-sen, H. (2016). A recovery program to improve quality of life, sense of coherence and psychological health in ICU survivors: A multicenter randomized controlled trial, the RAPIT study. Intensive Care Medicine 42(11), 1733-1743. Doi: 10.1007/s00134-016-4522-1

Previous project in the Region of Southern Denmark on the importance of comorbidity of PTSD and chronic pain carried out in collaboration with Smertecenter Syd (Pain center at Odense University Hospital). Studies find a high prevalence of PTSD among chronic pain patients and conversely chronic pain among PTSD patients. This has treatment implications, as the two conditions maintain each other and hinder treatment. The project aimed to assess the prevalence of PTSD among chronic pain patients, whether some pain diagnoses were more strongly associated with PTSD than others, whether trauma types had an impact on the prevalence of PTSD among chronic pain patients, and whether there were gender and age differences. The project was led by Tonny Elmose Andersen.


Andersen, T. E., Andersen, P. G., Vakkala, M. A. & Elklit, A. (2012). The traumatised chronic pain patient – Prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder - PTSD and pain sensitisation in two Scandinavian samples referred for pain rehabilitation. Scandinavian Journal of Pain, 3, 39-43. Doi: 10.1016/j.sjpain.2011.10.001

Andersen, T. E., Elklit, A. & Vase, L.(2011) The Relationship between Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Attachment-Anxiety may be a Vulnerability Factor. European Journal of Psychotraumatology , 2. Doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v2i0.5633

The project examined the relationship between different experiences of child maltreatment and disordered eating  in a large population sample of young Danish adults. Participants completed a structured interview around socio-demographic, psychological and physical domains. Participants who had a history of BM experienced higher levels of FS than non-abused individuals. The relationship of emotional and sexual abuse with FS was partially explained by participants' levels of PTSD symptoms and self-esteem. Emotional abuse had a greater impact on self-esteem and sexual abuse had a greater impact on PTSD symptoms. The relationship between polyvictimisation and FS was fully mediated by PTSD and self-esteem. The project was led by Nele Marie Wolf.


Wolf, N. & Elklit, A. (2018). The impact of different types of child maltreatment on disordered eating in adulthood: A mediating role of PTSD and self-esteem? Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, 1-12. Doi: 10.1007/s40653-018-0224-x

Roenholt, S., Beck, N. N., Karsberg, S. H., & Elklit, A. (2012). Post-traumatic stress symptoms and childhood abuse categories in a national representative sample for a specific age group: associations to body mass index. European journal of psychotraumatology, 3, Doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v3i0.17188

The project investigated the prevalence of PTSD, as well as predictors of PTSD, among breast cancer patients. The study is a one-year follow-up of 64 former breast cancer patients. PTSD, subclinical PTSD, delayed PTSD and several theory-driven predictor variables were examined. 13% of patients showed symptoms of illness-related PTSD compared to 7% at the initial examination (6 weeks after diagnosis). Significant changes were observed in all PTSD clusters (intrusion, avoidance and wakefulness), which in most cases represent a decrease in symptom level. Primitive defence level, emotional coping, avoidant behaviour and negative affectivity were predictive variables, explaining 65% of the variability in PTSD severity one year after diagnosis. Early screening for the above four variables may allow for early identification of those patients most at risk of developing PTSD.


Elklit, A. & Blum, A. (2010): Psychological adjustment one year after the diagnosis of breast cancer: a prototype study of delayed PTSD. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 50, 350-363. Doi: 10.1348/014466510X527676

O’Connor & Elklit, A. (2015). Treating PTSD symptoms in older adults. In U. Schnyder & M. Cloitre: Evidence Based Treatments for Trauma-Related Psychological Disorders - A Practical Guide for Clinicians (pp. 381-397). Berlin: Springer. Doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-07109-1_20.

Armour, C., O’Connor, M., Elklit, A. & Elhai, J (2013).: Assessing PTSD's Latent Structure in Elderly Bereaved European Trauma Victims: Evidence for a Five Factor Dysphoric and Anxious Arousal Model. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 210(10), 901-906. Doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182a5befb

Elklit, A. & O’Connor, M. (2003). Ældre, der sørger – om posttraumatisk stress for-styrrelse hos ældre efterladte og betydningen af personlighed for sorgreaktionen. Psykolog Nyt, 57, (21), 3-11.

Elklit, A. & O’Connor, M. (2005). Post-traumatic stress disorder in a Danish population of elderly bereaved. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 46, 439-445.


Two projects have investigated parental reactions after infant death. The first study included 93 parents who have lost an infant. We systematically reviewed the international research on parental reactions after infant death and were part of the first study in Denmark in this field. The second study was prospective and followed 602 parents and 84 friends of the parents (who served as a control group). The study was conducted in collaboration with the Danish Association for Infant Death. According to the study, 17% of the parents met all three criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. It also found that women experienced significantly more grief than men in connection with the loss of an infant. The prevalence of PTSD in mothers varied widely across studies, but was estimated to be around 0.6-39%. PTSD in fathers following infant loss has been much less studied. PTSD levels in fathers were generally much lower than in mothers, with reported prevalence rates of 0-15.6%. PTSD was not dependent on time of death, nor was gestational age associated with PTSD severity. Consistent with previous studies, the results showed that parents showed evidence of elevated levels of trauma-specific and psychological reactions for up to 5 years, particularly elevated levels of interpersonal sensitivity and aggression. The study highlights the long-term impact of infant death, pointing to attachment, coping and social support as important contributors to the development and maintenance of post-traumatic stress symptoms.


Christiansen, D. M. (2019). The trauma of infant loss. International Journal of Birth & Parent Education, 6(2), 15-19.

Christiansen, D. M. (2017). Posttraumatic stress disorder in parents following infant death: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 51, 60-74. Doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2016.10.007

Christiansen, D. M. (2017). Posttraumatic stress disorder in parents following infant death: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 51, 60-74. Doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2016.10.007

Shevlin, M., Boyda, D., Elklit, A. & Murphy. S. (2014). Adult attachment styles and the psychological response to infant bereavement. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. 5: 23295. Doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v5.23295

Murphy, S., Shevlin, M., & Elklit, A. (2014). Psychological Consequences of Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death in a Sample of Bereaved Parents. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 19(1) 56-69.

Shevlin, M., Boyda, D., Elklit, A. & Murphy. S. (2014). Adult attachment styles and the psychological response to infant bereavement. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. 5. Doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v5.23295

Christiansen, D., Olff, M. & Elklit, A. (2013). Parents bereaved by infant death: PTSD symptoms up to 18 years after the loss. General Hospital Psychiatry, 35(6), 605-611. Doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2013.06.006

O’Connor, M. & Elklit, A. (2010). Forståelse og behandlingen af sorgforløb. Stjernen, 19 (3), 14-18.

Jind, L., Elklit, A. & Christiansen, D. (2010): Cognitive Schemata and Processing among Parents Bereaved by Infant Death. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 17 (4), 366-377. Doi: 10.1007/s10880-010-9216-1

Elklit, A. & Guðmundsdóttir, D. B. (2006): Assessment of guidelines for good psychosocial practice for parents who have lost an infant through perinatal or postnatal death. Nordic Psychology, 58(4), 315-330.

O’Connor, M. & Elklit, A. (2004). Forståelse og behandlingen af sorgforløb. Psykolog Nyt, 58, (22), 3-9.

Elklit, A. & Jind, L. (1999). Forældrereaktioner på spædbarnsdød, København: Forlaget Skolepsykologi/Dansk Psykologisk Forlag, 1-152.

Elklit, A. (1999). Kønsforskelle, social støtte og trivsel i parforhold hos forældre, der har mistet et spædbarn. Stjernen, 8 (1), 33-37.

Jind, L & Elklit, A. (1998). Cognitive Processing of Emotional Loss. Paper presented at the 4th Congress of the International Society for Cultural Research and Activity Theory, Aarhus, June 7-11, 1998. In Hedegaard, M. & Chaiklin, S. (Eds.): Activity Theory and Cultural Historical Approaches to Social Practice. Aarhus, Denmark: Department of Psychology, University of Aarhus. 289-290.

Elklit, A. (1997). En profil af forældre, der har mistet et spædbarn: Hvad skete der ved dødsfaldet, og hvordan forholdt forældrene sig til det. Stjernen, 6 (4), 5-9.

Elklit, A. (1997). Hvor belastede er forældre, der har mistet et spædbarn? Stjernen, 6(5), 5-9.

Elklit, A. (1996). Fire forskellige sorgmønstre. Stjernen, 5 (5), 17-18.

The purpose of the study was to compare the prevalence of PTSD in young adult survivors of childhood cancer and to identify which psychological factors that best predict the degree of traumatization. PTSD prevalence was 18%. Female gender, low self-esteem, immature defence mechanisms, lack of close attachment, emotional coping and somatization explained 70% of the total variance for traumatization.


Jeggesen, A., Gudmundsdóttir, D. B. & Elklit, A. (2012).Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Adolescent and Young Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer. Nordic Psychology, 64, 291-304.Doi: 10.1080/19012276.2012.768037

The current study evaluated the psychological sequelae in 66 parents of extreme low and very low birth weight infants (mean weight of 842 g). Parents who had given birth within a 3-year period prior to the study were chosen from the archives of a neonatal ward and surveyed regarding posttraumatic stress, coping strategies, and social support. Thirty-five percent of the parents reported that their child had a handicap. Twenty percent of the women met the criteria of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time of the study, and an additional 10% met the criteria for a subclinical PTSD diagnosis. Female gender, handicap of the child, general distress during hospitalization, distressing contact with hospital staff, experienced distress at homecoming, and emotional coping, explained 72% of the degree of traumatization. Psychological support and intervention is recommended during the hospital stay of a premature infant who has a handicap and after the homecoming to prevent the development of chronic PTSD and reduce the associated distress.

Elklit, A., Hartvig, T., & Christiansen, M. (2007). Psychological Sequelae in Parents of Extreme Low and Very Low Birth Weight Infants. Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 14, 238-247.

The project investigated the relationship between parental experience of care and traumatisation. To identify potential gender differences, as well as the possible relationships between the severity of the child's illness, parents' fear of losing their child and parents' experience of support and the development of acute stress disorder (ASD) symptoms. The cross-sectional study involved 90 parents of children admitted to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Aarhus University Hospital from August 2011 to August 2012. The parents completed a questionnaire pack at the time of their child's discharge from the hospital. Approximately one third of the parents had ASD or subclinical ASD. There were no significant gender differences when symptoms were measured dimensionally. When measured categorically, 17% of mothers and 7% of fathers had ASD. Mothers with very young children had higher levels of acute stress; fathers whose children were very ill showed more acute stress. Fathers and mothers were very satisfied with the care offered on the unit. Perceived support from nurses was high for both parents and perceived quality of care was positively associated with acute stress, but not with severity of illness or fear of losing the child. The project was led by Jesper Mortensen.


Mortensen, J., Simonsen, B. O., Eriksen, S. B., Skovby, P., Dall, R. & Elklit, A. (2014). Family-centred care and traumatic symptoms in parents of children admitted to PICU. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 29(3), 495-500. Doi: 10.111/scs.12179

The project examined Wallander and Varni's (1998) disability-stress coping model as well as mental distress and the prevalence of PTSD among 150 Icelandic parents of chronically ill children. Furthermore, the study investigated the potential effects of social support in times of crisis at two points in time. Despite the heterogeneity of the sample in terms of illness type, PTSD was present in 13.2% of parents and a further 28.6% met criteria for subclinical PTSD. Emotional coping, extent of daily care, time since diagnosis and changes in employment due to the illness explained 71% of the variance in the HTQ (Harvard Trauma Questionnaire) total score. Time since diagnosis, length of hospitalisation and illness-related daily care predicted 40% of the HTQ total score.

Guðmundsdóttir, H., Guðmundsdóttir, D., & Elklit, A.(2006) Risk and resistance factors for psychological distress in Icelandic parents of chronically ill children: An application of the the Wallander and Varni’s disability-stress coping model. Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 13, 299-306.

The main aim of the project was to examine changes in attachment dimensions, PTSD and depression from baseline before treatment to five months after treatment. In addition, we examined the association between avoidance and PTSD and depression among women newly diagnosed with ovarian, endometrial or cervical cancer. Patients were asked to complete the revised Adult Attachment Scale, Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and Major Depression Inventory at baseline and again at 5-month follow-up. The study found significant positive changes in the anxiety attachment dimension among women with ovarian cancer, a significant reduction in PTSD among endometrial cancer patients and small changes in depression among all cancers. The anxiety attachment dimension significantly increased the risk of PTSD and depression. The adjustment of rehabilitation according to the patient's anxiety attachment contains possibilities for indirectly influencing PTSD and depression symptoms. The project was led by Kamila Adellund Holt.

Adellund Holt, K., Jensen, P. T., Gilså Hansen, D.4, Elklit, A., Mogensen, O. (2016). Rehabilitation of Women with Gynaecological Cancer – the association between Adult Attachment, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Depression. Psych-Oncology, 25(6), 691-698. Doi: 10.1002/pon.3996
This project is made up of a number of studies on HIV-positive people. These include a mapping of some psychological conditions among HIV-infected people, an intervention project and a study of loneliness among the elderly in relation to prevalence and correlations. The latter is based on a literature review of 23 studies on the problems faced by older people with HIV.


Related publications:
Larsen, S. B (2020). Ensomhed blandt ældre med HIV - et narrativt review af forekomst og sammenhænge. Syddansk Universitet

Sørensen, H. & Elklit, A.(2005) Tidlig intervention over for HIV-positive: En psykosocial model for kriseintervention efter overbringelse af fatale diagnoser. Månedsskrift for praktisk lægegerning, 83 (3), 365-379.

Elklit, A.(1998) Traumatisering, forsvar og belastning hos HIV-positive. Forskningsnyt fra psykologien, 7 (5), 4-6.

Elklit, A.(1998) Psykisk sundhed, symptomatologi, social støtte og mestring hos HIV-positive: En litteraturoversigt. Nordisk Psykologi, 50 (2), 120-134.

Pedersen, S.S. & Elklit, A.(1998) Traumatisation, Psychological Defense Style, Coping, Symptomatology, and Social Support in HIV-positive: A Pilot Study. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 39 (2), 55-60.


The purpose of the study was to create a psychological profile of Danish women with eating disorders who were not hospitalised. 75 women aged 19 to 46 years participated. 22 participants suffered from a clinical eating disorder (ED). 20 women had previously suffered from a clinical ED and 33 women had never suffered from ED. The study included sociodemographic data, diet and weight issues, exposure to stressful life events and the following questionnaires: Eating Disorder Inventory, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Coping Styles Questionnaire, Percieved Stress Scale, Defence Style Questionnaire and Trauma Symptom Checklist. Psychologically, women with ED differed significantly from women without ED by using a more primitive defence style, perceiving themselves as more vulnerable to stress, using less effective methods to cope with difficult situations and having lower self-esteem. Unexpectedly, the study also showed that recovery from an ED resulted in normalisation of both behavioural and psychological characteristics. The project was led by Helle Blaase.

The project also aimed to investigate the relationship between emotional eating behaviour and traumatic experiences, as well as a number of other factors such as mentalisation, coping style and self-esteem. 286 Danes who self-reported problems in controlling their eating habits were included in the study, and the results showed, among other things, that the number of different types of trauma and the experience of childhood trauma have an impact on later emotional eating behaviour. The project has resulted in a thesis written by Ina Thøstesen and Maria Toulopova at the University of Copenhagen.


Blaase, H. & Elklit, A. (2001): Psychological characteristics of women with eating disorders – permanent or transient features. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 42, 467- 478.

The project involved patients in the intensive care unit at Aarhus Hospital. The aim of the project was to estimate the prevalence of severe symptoms of PTSD and to identify factors associated with PTSD in survivors of traumatic injury in intensive care. 52 patients who were hospitalised in intensive care after traumatic injury were followed. Information on injury severity and ICU (intensive care unit) treatment was obtained through medical records.
Demographic information and presence of acute stress symptoms, social support, coping style, sense of coherence (SOC) and locus of control were assessed within one month after the accident (T1, time 1). At six-month follow-up (T2), PTSD was assessed with the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ). High levels of PTSD symptoms occurred in 19.2% of participants at six-month follow-up after traumatic injury. Screening for the variables gender, length of unconsciousness, dissociation, hyperarousal (hypervigilance), and site of control after intensive care following traumatic injury may help predict who will develop PTSD. The project was led by Mette Ratzer and was carried out in collaboration with Aarhus University Hospital.


Ratzer, M., Romano, E. & Elklit, A. (2014). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Patients Following Intensive Care Unit Treatment: A Review of Studies Regarding Prevalence and Risk Factors. Journal of Treatment and Trauma, 3(2), 1-15. Doi: 10.4172/2167-1222.1000190

Ratzer, M., Brink, O., Knudsen, L. & Elklit, A. (2014). Posttraumatic stress in intensive care unit survivors – a prospective study. Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, 2(1), 882-898. Doi: 10.1080/02646838.2014.945516

The project investigated the link between whiplash and PTSD. For six months, we followed patients with whiplash who had been in contact with the emergency room at Aarhus Hospital. The project found a number of risk factors that can be treated within the first three months after the accident. These included a high prevalence of PTSD symptoms, catastrophising, movement-related anxiety and depression. By identifying patients with a particular psychosocial risk profile and intervening against these factors, the development of chronic pain can be prevented and exclusion from the labour market avoided. There is currently no such programme in the public treatment system, so this will be a new treatment option that has proven to be effective and economically viable in Canada.


Andersen, T. E., Karstoft, K-I., Brink, O. & Elklit, A. (2016). Pain-catastrophizing and fear-avoidance beliefs as mediators between post-traumatic stress symptoms and pain following whiplash injury – A prospective cohort study. European Journal of Pain ;20(8):1241-52. Doi: 10.1002/ejp.848

Andersen, T. E., Elklit, A., & Brink O. (2013). PTSD symptoms mediate the effect of attachment on pain and somatisation after whiplash injury. Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health,9, 1-8. Doi: 10.2174/1745017901309010075

Andersen, T. E. (2012). The development of chronic pain. A diathesis-stress perspective on whiplash associated disorders and other pain conditions. Ph.D. Syddansk Universitet.

Andersen, T. E., Elklit, A. & Vase, L.: (2011) The Relationship between Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress - Attachment-Anxiety may be a Vulnerability Factor. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 2. Doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v2i0.5633

Jones, A. & Elklit, A.(2007)The Association between Gender, Coping, and Whiplash Related Symptoms in Sufferers of Whiplash Associated Disorder. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology,48 (1), 75-80.

Elklit, A. & Jones, A.(2006)The Association between Anxiety and Chronic Pain After Whiplash Injury: Gender-specific Effects. Clinical Journal of Pain, 22 (5), 487-490.

Elklit, A.(2000) Følger af whiplash. København: PTU. 

This study examined symptoms of eating disorder, depression and anxiety among Roux-en-Y gastric bypass patients two years after surgery, as well as the relationship between these characteristics and weight loss. Participants completed a series of questionnaires, including the Eating Disorder Inventory-2 (EDI-2), Harvard Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and questions related specifically to binge eating.
45 patients (8 men, 37 women) out of 65 (67%) participated. Scores were significantly higher on impulse regulation, interoceptive awareness, ineffectiveness (assessing feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, worthlessness and lack of control), maturity anxiety and interpersonal distrust compared to a Danish norm group (p ≤ 0.05). The weight loss achieved after surgery ranged from 12 to 60% of the initial weight. Binge eating and inefficiency correlated significantly with variation in weight loss after surgery (p ≤ 0.05). The results of this study indicate that knowledge of the potential influence of eating disorder symptoms on outcomes after bariatric surgery is necessary to optimise weight outcomes after surgery.


Beck, N.N., Mehlsen, M. & Støving, R.K. (2012). Psychological Characteristics and Associations with Weight Outcomes two Years after Gastric Bypass Surgery: Postoperative Eating Disorder Symptoms are associated with Weight Loss Outcomes. Eating Behaviors, 13(4), 394-397.

The project examined the prevalence and predictors of developing PTSD in a group of people who had recently lost a loved one to cancer. 132 people were assessed with the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire, Trauma Symptom Checklist and Crisis Support Scale. One month after the loss, 29.5% of patients met criteria for clinical PTSD and a further 26.2% met criteria for subclinical PTSD. Negative affectivity, social support and locus of control in relation to the loss predicted 57% of the variance in PTSD severity.
A focus on these risk factors immediately after the death could help identify individuals at risk of developing PTSD as a result of the death. Six months after the loss, 21.6% of patients had PTSD, a decrease of 8.6% from PTSD measured one month after the loss. Post-loss medication intake, place of death, not having a close confidant, negative affectivity and the A2 criterion predicted 65% of PTSD severity. A significant number of carers were still at high risk of developing PTSD six months after the loss. The project was led by Tina Edstoft Kristensen.

Kristensen, T. E., Elklit, A., Karstoft, K.-I., & Palic, S. (2013). Predicting Chronic Post-traumatic stress disorder in Bereaved Relatives: A 6-Month Follow-Up Study. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 31(4), 396-405. Doi: 10.1177/1049909113490066

Kristensen, T. E., Elklit, A. & Karstoft, K.-I. (2012): Post-traumatic stress disorder after bereavement: Early psychological sequelae of losing a close relative due to terminal cancer. Journal of Trauma and Loss, 17, 1-14. Doi: 10.1080/15325024.2012.665304

In this project, we examined the relationship between PTSD symptoms, experiences of childhood trauma and weight. A stratified random probability survey was conducted in Denmark by the Danish Centre for Social Research in 2008 and 2009. 2,981 participants born in 1984 participated and the survey achieved a response rate of 67%. Participants were interviewed using a structured interview and questions included PTSD symptomatology, exposure to childhood abuse, exposure to potentially traumatising events, height and weight. Underweight was defined by a body mass index (BMI) <18.5, overweight was defined by a BMI between 25 and 30, while obesity was defined by a BMI +30. PTSD symptomatology and childhood abuse were significantly associated with both underweight and overweight/obesity. Childhood emotional abuse was particularly associated with underweight, while sexual abuse and overall abuse were particularly associated with overweight/obesity. The project was led by Stine Roenholt and was conducted in collaboration with the Danish National Centre for Social Research (SFI).


Roenholt, S., Beck, N. N., Karsberg, S. H & Elklit, A.(2012) Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Childhood Abuse Categories in a National Representative Sample for a Specific Age Group: Associations to Body Mass Index. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 3. Doi:10.3402/ejpt.v3i0.17188

The project investigated whether living with a person suffering from epilepsy was a potentially traumatising event. The project also examined predictive risk factors for the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 614 respondents completed the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire, Crisis Support Scale, Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25 and Dyadic Adjustment Scale. In addition, demographic variables were included to identify factors that could predict PTSD. Partners of epileptics had an increased risk of developing PTSD when living with a patient with epilepsy. Variables identified that could explain PTSD were: Frequency of epileptic seizures, medication types, side effects, as well as objective and subjective epilepsy severity, anxiety and depression. High levels of social support reduced levels of traumatic stress. The project was led by Ditte Aagaard Norup and was developed in collaboration with the Danish Epilepsy Association.


Jakobsen, A. V., & Elklit, A. (2021). Self-control and coping responses are mediating factors between child behavior difficulties and parental stress and family impact in caregivers of children with severe epilepsy. Epilepsy & behavior, 122. Doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2021.108224

Norup, D. A. & Elklit, A. (2013). Post-traumatic stress disorder in Partners of People with Epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior, 27(1), 225-232. Doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2012.11.039

The number of requests for jaw surgery is increasing and specialists in the field are concerned about whether it is possible to identify a group that would benefit more from a psychological assessment and treatment programme than a primary cosmetic surgery. The project investigated personality patterns, motives and satisfaction with treatment in a prospective design.


Øland, J., Jensen, J., Elklit, A. & Melsen, B. (2011). Motives for Surgical-Orthodontic Treatment and Impact of Treatment on Psychological well-being and Satisfaction: A Prospective Study of 118 patients. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery69, 104-113. Doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2010.06.203

Øland, J., Jensen, J., Melsen, B. & Elklit, A. (2010). Are personality patterns and clinical syndromes associated with patients’ motives and perceived outcome of orthognathic surgery? Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 68, 3007-3014. Doi: 10.1016/j.joms2010.07.077

The study was a pilot study aimed at investigating gender differences in expressive writing as an intervention for parents of children with leukaemia. The study found that expressive writing has a significant effect as an intervention and that there are significant gender differences for the intervention.


Christiansen, D. M., Martino, M. L., Elklit, A. & Freda, M. F. (2022). Sex differences in the outcome of expressive writing in parents of children with leukaemia. Clinical Psychology in Europe, 4(1), e5533. Doi: 10.23668/psycharchives.5191

PhD student Annette Kjær Fuglsang investigated acute stress disorder in accidental injuries. The project resulted in the two articles below.


Fuglsang, A.K., Moergeli, H., Schnyder, U. (2004). Does acute stress disorder predict post-traumatic stress disorder in traffic accident victims? Analysis of a self-report inventory. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 58, 223-229.

Fuglsang, A.K., Moergeli, H., Hepp-Beg, S. & Schnyder, U. (2002). Who develops acute stress disorder after accidental injuries. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 71(4), 214-222. Doi: 10.1159/000063647

The project explored the importance of compassion for others and self as important factors during the pandemic in relation to social relationships, isolation and loneliness. The project was based at the University of Coimbra in Portugal and was worldwide, with 21 countries participating.


Matos, M., McEwan, K., Kanovský, M. et al. (2022). Compassion Protects Mental Health and Social Safeness During the COVID-19 Pandemic Across 21 Countries. Mindfulness. Doi: 10.1007/s12671-021-01822-2

Matos, M., McEwan, K., Kanovský, M. et al. (2021). Fears of compassion magnify the harmful effects of threat of COVID‐19 on mental health and social safeness across 21 countries. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. Doi: 10.1002/cpp.2601

Matos, M. McEwan, K., Kanovský, M. et al. (2021). The role of social connection on the experience of COVID-19 related post-traumatic growth and stress. PloS one, 16(12), e0261384. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0261384

Matos, M., McEwan, K., Kanovský, M. et al. (2023). Improvements in compassion and fears of compassion throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: A multinational study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,20(3), 1845. Doi: 10.3390/ijerph20031845


The Danish Center of Psychotraumatology participated in a major international project to investigate the links between different types of pain and early childhood abuse. The project is based at McGill University in Canada and includes participation from the Department of Sports Science and Biomechanics at SDU.


Bussières, A. E., Hartvigsen, J., Ferreira, M. I., Ferreira, P. H., Hancock, M. J., Stone, L. S., Wideman, T. H., Boruff, J. & Elklit, A. (2020). Adverse childhood experience and adult persistent pain and disability: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis. Systematic Reviews, 9:215. Doi: 10.1186/s13643-020-01474-8

Last Updated 28.10.2023