Investigation of the psychobiological consequences of non-criminal repression
- Ms Ruth Marheinecke, Institute of Psychosocial Medicine, Psychotherapy and Psychooncology Jena University Hospital, Germany (Telephone +49 3641 9398056)
Topic and question
Numerous health symptoms of victims of the SED dictatorship are possibly caused by changes in hormonal stress regulation, more precisely, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (HPAA). It is well known that experiencing chronic or traumatic stressful events can lead to long-term dysregulation of the HPAA and in this way cause pathological changes. For example, at the onset of a chronic stress episode, increased release of the HPAA end hormone cortisol favors the development of depression, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. With prolonged exposure to stress, initial hypercortisolism appears to fall below normal levels and predispose individuals to the development of autoimmune diseases and somatoform disorders. The knowledge of such altered biological stress mechanisms should find its way into psychotherapeutic practice and counseling in order to mitigate everyday stress experiences of the affected individuals by means of specialized interventions and to counteract the biological dysregulation.
Target groups: former GDR citizens aged 50 and older with and without own experience of non-criminal repression (e.g. disadvantage in employment, discrediting of reputation).
The study will be conducted in up to 4 sections:
- a questionnaire --> affected person and comparison group
- a short interview on mental well-being and a measurement of salivary cortisol on 3 consecutive days (sampling will be done at home in the daily life of participants) --> affected and comparison group
- a longer interview about repression experiences (conducted at the institute in Jena or at the affected persons' homes) --> affected group only
- a test of stress reactivity (conducted at the institute in Jena) --> affected and comparison group
Furthermore, a blood sample will be taken from each participant to determine telomere length and proinflammatory cytokines (blood collection is voluntary).