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Resignation syndrome: symptoms, causes and treatment

Resignation syndrome: symptoms, causes and treatment

September 14, 2022

In the world different phenomena, events and catastrophes that can greatly affect our lives occur continuously. From natural phenomena such as earthquakes, floods or hurricanes to events caused by the human being such as war and the suffering and helplessness that it generates in those who have to live with it or flee their homes, this can generate profound repercussions both physically and mentally. to those who suffer its effects.

In this sense, there are a large number of syndromes, illnesses and disorders in the world that are related in some way to the life of a large number of people. One of them is the Resignation Syndrome, a strange phenomenon that has only been detected in Sweden and of which we are going to talk throughout this article.

  • Related article: "What is trauma and how does it influence our lives?"

What is the Resignation Syndrome?

It is called Resignation Syndrome to a strange alteration that has been occurring in Sweden for a few years in part of the refugee population . Specifically, this is a condition that has only been observed in children and adolescents around seven to nineteen years of age.

This syndrome is characterized by the relatively rapid onset of an extreme level of apathy, immobility and silence without an apparent biological reason . First, there is a decrease in habitual behavior patterns and a reduction in activity and motivation, which can get much worse. Many of these children remain in a catatonic state, and sometimes even come to be in a coma-like state for months or years, unable to get up or nourish themselves.

In some cases they even require the use of probes to keep them nourished. At the biological level the organism of these minors works correctly, but despite this they remain completely motionless and inert. In fact, it has been speculated that we are a case of catatonia , being the lack of mobility and response to stimulation something shared between both conditions. It has also been associated with dissociative disorders.

Refugee children in an absent or comatose state

These children are commonly called "apathetic children", and they have in common the fact that they are children of refugees from different countries, generally from the Balkans or from the territories that were part of the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia or Syria. they have experienced great traumas and complex situations in their countries of origin and / or on their way to the Swedish country and who face the possibility of not obtaining a residence permit.

Although this syndrome has occurred only in Sweden (something for which there is no explanation), the truth is that it has similarities with alterations found in prisoners of concentration camps in World War II. It is observed that they lose the ability to fight, to face their own defense and search for security or even to respond to external stimulation. It is practically as if consciousness were disconnected and the body functioned automatically.

  • Related article: "Catatonia: causes, symptoms and treatment of this syndrome"

Hypothesis about its causes

Today the Resignation Syndrome is a little known alteration and for which the causes are not yet known. It has been observed that it is intimately related to the uncertainty regarding the possibility or notification of having to leave the country (in fact, families that have been able to stay have seen how the child has been improving over time), but it does not explain why it occurs only is Sweden or why it does not happen more often, nor the extreme severity that the syndrome can have.

There was also speculation about the possibility of being faced with a feigned or family-caused condition as an attempt to remain in the country in the face of a child's illness (something similar to the Munchausen by proxy), but despite the fact that have observed some attempts at fraud most of the symptoms do not seem to be linked to these factors (their organisms function correctly and the symptomatology is not feigned).

One of the main hypotheses indicates that the causes of this syndrome are predominantly psychological, being similar to other dissociative disorders generated by the experience of traumatic events, and that there may be a link with the phenomenon known as learned helplessness.The minor has observed that his acts and the acts of his parents have not been able to protect them and have not had a real effect (for example, despite the flight from their countries of origin they do not manage to be accepted in the country that was hosting them).

Based on this, it is observed, in psychodynamic terms, a split of consciousness as a protection mechanism against reality. Actually the basic problem seems to be the traumatic experiences they have experienced before and fear and helplessness before the possibility of returning to live the same conditions.

Linked to the above, it is considered that cultural elements such as the repression of negative emotions typical of some cultures can facilitate this Resignation Syndrome unable to overturn or express their suffering externally. Also the absence of contact or the fact of constantly being aware of their legal situation are elements of risk.

Why this problem has only been detected in Swedish territory, what causes some children to trigger this syndrome and others do not and why it only occurs in ages between seven and nineteen and not older are still today an unknown that needs further investigation .


Finding an effective treatment for the resignation syndrome is not easy, but most experts believe that Recovery goes through an increase in the sense of security and a decrease in the perception of helplessness and rejection. This could happen through the obtaining of a residence permit, but it has been observed that the case of families that do not get it has been able to cause a significant improvement and a progressive recovery.

In these cases, the first option is to separate the child from his family environment until his recovery. Once this is done, the minor is subjected to a program of cognitive stimulation in which the child is gradually revived through exposure to situations and stimuli: games, smells, physical exercise (even if they are not able to walk or move, they are guided by physical guidance), music or expression through the drawing. It is important during this process that you can not talk about the migration process or the expulsion from the country, as this could reinsert insecurity and cause a relapse.

This last aspect is something to take into account, since the recovery does not guarantee that a possible relapse can not occur. While the treatment focuses on the child, the truth is that you could also work with the family in aspects such as psychoeducation and psychological counseling.

Bibliographic references:

  • Sallin, K .; Lagercrantz, H .; Evers, K .; Engström, I .; Hjern, A. & Petrovic, P. (2016). Resignation Syndrome: Catatonia? Culture-Bound ?. Front. Behav. Neurosci., 10 (7).
  • Söndergaard, H. P., Kushnir, M. M., Aronsson, B., Sandstedt, P., and Bergquist, J. (2012). Patterns of endogenous steroids in apathetic refugee children are compatible with long-term stress. BMC Res. Notes 5: 186. doi: 10.1186 / 1756-0500-5-186

Bladder pain syndrome (September 2022).

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