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The Danish Center of Psychotraumatology

Interpersonal sensitivity

A variety of factors contribute to our current understanding of the differences we see in mental health after war. These factors include types of war experiences and coping strategies. Similarly, stressors in the post-war environment are associated with social consequences such as poor emotion regulation, impaired ability to empathies, reduced ability to trust other people and interpersonal sensitivity.
However, very few studies have looked at the social consequences that can follow after war. Examples of such social consequences include an increased sensitivity to the development of mental disorders among survivors.

The Danish Center for Psychotraumatology contributes with research that examines this, just as we contribute with a number of other studies on interpersonal sensitivity and its mediating role in mental illness.



The pathways from war experiences to mental health problems are poorly understood. The current study aims to assess the role of interpersonal sensitivity in the relations between war experiences and mental health problems based on data from the ar- ffected outh urvey cohort study. The ar- ffected outh urvey is an ongoing research project of formerly abducted children in Northern Uganda assessing their war experiences and the risk and protective factors in the development of mental health problems. Mediation of the relations between war experiences and mental health problems by interpersonal sensitivity was analyzed using structural equation modeling. War experiences were related to posttraumatic stress disorder through interpersonal sensitivity accounting for 55% of the variance in their relations, to depression/anxiety through interpersonal sensitivity accounting for 89% of the variance in their relations (i.e., near complete mediation), and to psychotic symptoms through interpersonal sensitivity accounting for 53% of the variance in their relations. The direct relation between war experiences, on the one hand, and posttraumatic stress disorder and psychotic symptoms, on the other hand, attenuated but remained statistically significant. For depression/anxiety, the direct relationship ceased to be significant after including interpersonal sensitivity in the model. Interpersonal sensitivity is an important determinant of long-term mental health problems in war-affected youth. Interventions to improve mental health should target youth with high scores on interpersonal sensitivity. Cognitive-behavioral therapy to recognize and change cognitive schemas in youth prone to interpersonal sensitivity is recommended.


Amone-P’Olak, K. & Elklit, A. (2018). Interpersonal Sensitivity as mediator of the relations between War Experiences and mental illness in War-affected Youth in Northern Uganda: Findings from the WAYS study. Traumatology, 24(3), 200-208. Doi:



Last Updated 29.09.2023