A study published in this month’s issue of the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology found that perceived discrimination related to minority status may precede the emergence of psychosis. These findings support social defeat theory, which explains that chronic feelings of outsider status or subordination may lead to a sensitization of the dopamine system and the experience of psychotic symptoms.
“Furthermore, a recent paper demonstrates that in addition to ethnic minority position being associated with increased risk for psychosis, sexual minorities are also at risk for psychosis suggesting that exposure to minority stress in general may represent an important mechanism for the later development of psychosis.”
“These findings may help clarify the direction of this relationship in that perceived discrimination may have preceded the attenuated psychotic symptoms for some individuals but certainly did precede psychosis in our sample (rather than being a consequence of having a psychotic disorder). Finally, as per our first paper, perceived discrimination was related to ethnicity, and in all participants, perceived discrimination was significantly associated with being from an ethnic minority.”
“CHR participants report experiencing more trauma, bullying, and perceived discrimination compared to healthy controls. Additionally, the more lifetime perceived discrimination endorsed, the greater the chance of conversion to psychosis. While it is difficult to determine the actual experience of discrimination, an attempt to at least identify perceived discrimination may help eliminate feelings of having an outsider status, and ultimately contribute to a reduction or prevention of psychosis.”
Stowkowy, J., Liu, L., Cadenhead, K. S., Cannon, T. D., Cornblatt, B. A., McGlashan, T. H., … & Woods, S. W. (2016). Early traumatic experiences, perceived discrimination and conversion to psychosis in those at clinical high risk for psychosis. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 1-7.