Maze or Labyrinth: Identifying PTSD Stressors in the Built Space of Zaatari and Calais Refugee Camps

Samuel N. Chambers, W. Jake Jacobs, Casey Lindberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In this study, we analyze the structure of paths within two refugee camps (Calais, France, and Zaatari, Jordan) as a preliminary study examining posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stressors within such camps. We do so through a geospatial analysis of intersections and viewsheds within the camps. Given that anxiety, and the avoidance associated with it, is a primary characteristic of PTSD, refugees might prefer built environments with fewer stressors or anxiety triggers. This study provides a baseline for analyzing basic stressors in a way to test whether design supports anxiety-based avoidance. The planned structure of Zaatari shows a high prevalence of spatial PTSD stressors with lower visibility and a more maze-like structure than that of Calais. This suggests a coping strategy taken by refugees to produce a more suitable and less stressing labyrinth structure. To properly treat PTSD in geographical space, we suggest a need for consideration of this in the planning, function, and very existence of refugee camps and settlements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-565
Number of pages14
JournalProfessional Geographer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018


  • built space
  • geospatial analysis
  • mental health
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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