Health issues

Being held for even a short period of time can have an impact on your health. You may be malnourished, you might have picked up an infection or tropical disease, you may have muscle wastage, and the impacts of your experiences can leaving a lasting effect psychologically as well as physically. It is really important to take care of your health when you return.

Close-up of sleeping young womanSleep

Sleep is an essential function, which helps to heal the body when it is sick or has experienced an extreme event. Stress from a traumatic event – such as a kidnapping – can often lead to a variety of sleep problems.

When the body is overstimulated, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake, making it difficult to wind down at the end of the day. The neurochemicals remain present in the brain and can interrupt your normal sleep cycle. The result can be insomnia, bad dreams, and daytime fatigue caused by sleep disturbance.

You should not be surprised if you find yourself needing much more sleep than normal or fall asleep at any hour of the day or night. This is your body taking the sleep it needs to heal itself.

You might find it difficult to fall asleep or find yourself waking in the night. This might be due to flashbacks or troubling thoughts, a sense that you need to maintain a high level of vigilance, you might associate nighttime or darkness with negative memories from your captivity, or you might have nightmares.

Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on your mood and behavior, including heightened frustration, impaired concentration, and irritability with those around you. If it continues over a longer period of time, it can also start to have physical side effects.

Some turn to alcohol or other drugs to reduce their stress levels, but they can exacerbate sleep problems.


Many hostages held for long periods suffer from malnutrition as a result of their poor diet during captivity. If left untreated, malnutrition can cause many problems, such as lack of appetite, weight loss, tiredness and a loss of energy, it may impair your ability to perform normal tasks, it can reduce concentration and it can also be associated with lethargy and depression. It is important you see a dietitian within a few weeks of your return home so they can offer tailored advice about your diet.

Your dietary plans will depend on your individual circumstances, but it’s likely you’ll be advised to gradually increase your intake of energy, protein, carbohydrates, fluids, and vitamins and minerals. The aim is to reduce your risk of developing complications, such as infections, and to avoid hospital admission.

You may also be advised to take special nutritional supplements which can increase your energy and protein intake.

If you have problems swallowing food or drink (dysphagia), you may want to ask to be referred to a speech and language therapist (SLT) who can assess your swallowing and offer advice about a special diet that can help.

Exercise and well being

Even relatively short periods of physical inactivity can result in muscle wastage or atrophy. This can leave you physically weak and you will find even light physical movement difficult. There are a number of treatments, including exercise (such as water exercises), physical therapy, ultrasound therapy, or surgery for the most extreme cases. Any diagnosis and treatment should be conducted by your doctor.

Medical tests

When you return, it is advisable to get a full medical check up. You may have picked up bugs or tropical diseases, you may have other physical conditions, you may be malnourished or suffering from the impacts of a traumatic experience. Hostage US can assist you to get a full medical check up.

Dental problems

It is important you get a full dental check up after your release. You might have gone prolonged periods without being able to brush your teeth, have suffered damage to your teeth, or lost teeth. You may also have dental problems as a result of poor diet or malnutrition.

Dealing with the impacts of trauma

A kidnapping is a traumatic event. You may experience a number of different reactions to having been held hostage, all of which are entirely normal. It is important to look out for signs that you might be suffering, but remember that very few former hostages go on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – most are able to recover and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives. See Dealing With the Impacts of Trauma