Psychosis Associated with Childhood and Health Care-Related Traumas

A new study finds that people with psychosis connect the onset of their symptoms with trauma in childhood and in treatment settings.


New research from Spain focuses on first-person accounts of psychosis and how people make sense of these experiences themselves. The findings suggest that people attribute the ongoing experience of psychosis to both childhood and post-episode trauma.

The study, which performed a descriptive qualitative analysis of data obtained from focus groups of persons diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, was conducted at the Mental Health Service of the Regional University Hospital of Malaga in Spain. The system attends to over 8,000 patients per year, including over 1,200 patients diagnosed with some kind of psychotic disorder.

As the authors describe it, the main aim of this study was to analyze the trauma-related content of speech in a qualitative study and consider its association with psychosis from the standpoint of the persons most directly affected. Consistent with other research showing that a large proportion of mental health service users have reported suffering from traumatic events, trauma-related issues were present in the spontaneous speech of many of the research subjects in this study.

Approximately one-third of the people interviewed for the study reported having experienced an unstructured family environment, and the majority reported having suffered abuse in their own homes as children. But notably, beyond childhood experiences of neglect and violence, interactions with health care institutions were also experienced as traumatogenic. The authors note:

“The experience of physical immobilization was described as a situation of maximum vulnerability and helplessness. Even after their recovery from psychotic symptoms, the feeling of insecurity persisted for months.”

Involuntary hospitalization has been found to increase the risk of suicide and deter youth from seeking mental health treatment. It is thus unsurprising that persons who experienced coercive treatment in a health care setting linked these experiences to the onset of their psychotic symptoms.

In general, receiving treatment perceived as inhuman in health care settings further increased psychological distress in subjects who experienced psychosis. These subjects, in turn, attributed psychotic symptoms to these experiences of distress.

Therefore, awareness of trauma and traumatogenic coercion must form part of the approach taken to persons with psychotic disorders in health care settings. From service users’ perspectives, healthcare providers should also seek informed consent insofar as possible during hospital encounters to minimize the emotional impact of health care interventions.

This study bolsters call for the reduction or abolishment of coercive treatment of people experiencing psychosis.



Hurtado, M., Villena-Jimena, A., Quemada, C., & Morales-Asencio, J.M. (2021). “‘I do not know where it comes from, I am suspicious of some childhood trauma’ association of trauma with psychosis according to the experience of those affected.” European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12:1, 1940759, DOI: 10.1080/20008198.2021.1940759 (Link)


  1. “A new study finds that people with psychosis connect the onset of their symptoms with trauma in childhood and in treatment settings.”

    Yes, having five giant men illegally drag me out of the comfort of my own bed, while a sixth paramedic tells them that what they are doing is illegal, since I was not a danger to myself nor anyone else. Indeed, that was traumatic.

    Then to subsequently be shipped a long distance to, and “snowed” by, this now FBI convicted doctor, and his psycho psychiatric partner in crime.

    That was traumatic also.

    Forced treatment should be illegal. But since we’re living in upside down and backwards world, they now want to force vaccinate the entire planet.

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    • Oh, and all this was done to me, to cover up the medical evidence of a “bad fix” on a broken bone, and the medical evidence of the sexual assault of my child, for an ELCA Lutheran pastor, according to my family’s medical records. Since the ELCA Lutheran religion has “partnered,” thus entered into a faustian deal with, the “psy professionals,” according to the ladies in my childhood church.

      So most definitely, the medical / religious industries’ systemic crimes against both survivors of easily recognized malpractice, and those who have medical evidence of the abuse of their child handed over. We do need to see justice some day, but the lawyers are not yet taking our cases, so I do so hope God will be doing the final judgment of all.

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  2. TW: institutional trauma

    I’ve never told this story although I hope to soon now that I’m back in therapy.

    While hospitalized with psychosis for over 6 months, I was catheterized without my consent for reasons that were not fully explained to me. Even though they kept saying why I needed it, I was not capable of understanding. I don’t remember what they said but I remember everything else about it, being held down, being yelled at, screaming and crying. They didn’t stop even though I asked them to. There was no gentleness. The psychiatrist was a part of administering the catheter – I understand he’s an MD but why did he need to be there? Although everything feels like a dream from that time, I’m pretty positive that actually happened.

    Maybe physical immobilization, helplessness, these key factors that make up MH treatment trauma, are more the norm than the outlier?

    As well – I’m so impressed that this study is researching the qualitative content of the speech of people experiencing psychosis. This is such a huge change from a time when providers saw this speech as random and empty.

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  3. I went through many of these experiences myself, between the ages of 4 and 17 in special education, 2 different psychiatric insitutions and 3 different day treatment centers. Like many of the other kids in these places, though, I wasn’t psychotic… I just had autism and trauma responses to their own behvaior towards me. Restraint and isolation rooms were a daily reality, as were fear, helplessness and neglect. It took me until my 30s to dare to attempt getting mental healthcare again.

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  4. “An attempt to achieve the good by force is like an attempt to provide a man with a picture gallery at the price of cutting out his eyes. Values cannot exist (cannot be valued) outside the full context of a man’s life, needs, goals, and knowledge.”

    — Ayn Rand

    Those who believe that the good can be achieved by force are like a rapist who believes that sex is good and therefore forced sex is good. It’s not. It’s evil, and the same for any coercive “treatment” or “help.”

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