Policies Needed to Address Strong Link Between Trauma and Psychosis, Researchers Conclude

Justin Karter
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A new study, published online ahead of print in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, investigates the underlying connection between the experience of trauma and the development of symptoms associated with psychosis. The researchers discuss both psychological and biological mechanisms that may account for this connection and conclude that there is an urgent need for both trauma-informed treatments and preventative community-based and policy level interventions.

“At the prevention level, community-based interventions aimed at reducing trauma exposure is likely to be critical in lowering the incidence of psychotic disorders. Given the strong link between Traumatic Life Events and general psychopathology, community and policy efforts to prevent the incidence of traumatic life experiences, such as abuse, neglect, violence, and peer victimization, is imperative for public health,” write Lauren Gibson, Lauren Alloy, and Lauren Ellman, all researchers and psychologists at Temple University.

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Past studies have consistently revealed that traumatic life events (TLEs) significantly increase the risk for the development of psychotic symptoms. Different studies have estimated that the risk for developing symptoms of psychosis for individuals who have experienced trauma may be as high as 11.5%, compared to about a 3% risk in the general population. In a study published las year in Schizophrenia Research, researchers in Denmark and Australia identified a dose-response relationship, finding that the risk for psychosis increased two and a half times for each additional trauma experienced.

In this latest review of the literature, Gibson and her colleagues identify several mechanisms, both cognitive and neurobiological, involved in the relationship between traumatic experiences and psychosis.

“Despite the consistent relationship between TLEs and psychosis, the temporal and dose-response patterns that exist for this association, and the many mechanisms proposed to account for it, exposure to trauma is not necessary or sufficient to cause psychosis,” the authors write. “It is likely that TLEs interact with genetic vulnerability and/or other risk factors to produce psychosis outcomes.”

Nevertheless, they continue, the research evidence reveals a robust association between trauma and psychosis, increasing the risk for symptoms and also exacerbating symptoms once they begin. The existing literature often examines the potential mechanisms in isolation, which obscures the complex interconnections between experiences and cognitive and biological processes. There is a myriad of pathways through which genetic and environmental risk factors intersect, they conclude.

The researchers recommend psychological approaches to psychosis that are aimed at relieving distress related to the increased perception of threat that may follow from traumatic experiences. They emphasize the importance of developing community-based interventions and policies that can lower the experience of traumatic events in vulnerable populations, with the expectation that this may significantly lower the prevalence of psychosis.

 

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Gibson, L.E., Alloy, L.B. and Ellman, L.M., 2016. Trauma and the psychosis spectrum: A review of symptom specificity and explanatory mechanisms. Clinical Psychology Review. (Abstract)

4 COMMENTS

  1. What seems, from the medical literature, and my personal experience, to have been going on for the last several decades at least, is that some or many or all within the psychological and psychiatric industries have been ignoring trauma, that they personally do not want to discuss, and instead claim it to be ‘psychosis.’

    And then when you put a trauma survivor, as opposed to an actually ‘mentally ill’ person, if there is such a thing, on the psychiatric drugs. The psychiatrists can create ‘psychosis’ with the psychiatric drugs, via anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning, for example. But since this is not listed as a billable disorder in the DSM, they misdiagnose the adverse effects of their drugs as one, or more likely many, of the billable disorders.

    It is likely that TLEs are being intentionally covered up, for profit, and it is the psychiatric drug cocktails that produce the psychosis outcomes. But no doubt, the psychologists and psychiatrists don’t want anyone to know they’ve been profiteering off of ignoring their clients’ legitimate concerns, while creating ‘mental illnesses’ in their patients, with their drugs, for decades. Especially since doctors covering up child abuse, for example, is still technically illegal in the US.

    • Absolutely correct. And we all know that the drugs do not take care of the trauma. In fact, all they do is tamp everything down under a layer of zombified detachment from feelings, emotions, and life in general. The problems caused by the trauma suffered by people lives on to wreck its havoc and the people tasked with the job of helping people heal refuse to touch any of the trauma issues with a ten foot pole.

      I see this each and every day that I work in a state hospital. Trauma can be dealt with and people can get their lives back, but it doesn’t happen as long as they’re in the clutches of the psychiatrists and the “mental health” system.

      • Absolutely, once the medical evidence of the abuse of my child had been handed over by decent and disgusted nurses, it was a relief for me. At least, I now had medical evidence of my concerns validated. But when I confronted my psychiatrist with reality, he was terrified.

        He tried to convince me to get my child drugged up, which wasn’t going to happen, my child had largely healed by that point. Then my psychiatrist tried to convince my husband I needed to go back on drugs, which I already knew had made me ungodly ill. Good-bye, child abuse profiteering, psychopathic psychiatrist.

        Trauma can be healed, but not with denial and drugs, which is what psychiatrists believe. And the medical literature is coming in showing, “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).”

        Which, given the reality that the antipsychotics can cause both the positive symptoms of ‘schizophrenia,’ via anticholinergic toxidrome, and the negative symptoms of ‘schizophrenia,’ via NIDS. Implies profiteering off of covering up child abuse is a very large percentage of today’s psychiatric industry’s business, if not their primary role in society today.

        The problem with this is, of course, it’s technically illegal for doctors not to report medical evidence of child abuse, let alone profiteer off of covering it up. But the appalling reality apparently is that the psychiatric and psychological industries have historically, and are still, profiteering off of covering up child abuse and easily recognized iatrogenesis. This is known as “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions,” according to an ethical pastor of mine. You can’t fix a problem, without exposing it.

  2. In my case psychosis developed before I was put on psychiatric drugs and was clearly linked to a very painful personal experience. I had a psychotic episode in the summer of 2012 and I have never had a “relapse” (I have not been on any psychiatric drugs since mid-November 2013) so my psychosis was not caused by a long-term mental illness. My story proves that some people can become psychotic under the influence of trauma – and not because of a “psychiatric drug cocktail” served by cynical psychiatrists – and later make a full recovery. I think that such cases would be much more frequent if many people had not accepted the idea that mental illness is incurable and has nothing in common with a person’s experiences …