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Relationships between trauma and psychosis: an exploration of cognitive and dissociative factors


Dr Tony Morrison, Department of Psychology, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.


Objective:  There is a growing awareness of the relationship between trauma and psychosis. Studies have found associations between traumatic life experiences and the development of psychosis.

Method:  This study examined the prevalence of trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 32 people with psychotic diagnoses and investigated associations between specific traumas and psychotic symptoms. The role of dissociation and cognitive factors was also explored.

Results:  The prevalence of lifetime trauma was high (94% of the sample reported at least one traumatic event). The prevalence of current PTSD was 53%. Severity of trauma was associated with severity of PTSD and psychotic experiences. Physical abuse was associated with positive psychotic symptoms and sexual abuse was specifically related to hallucinations. Dissociative processes and negative beliefs formed as a result of trauma were associated with psychotic experiences (particularly hallucinations).

Conclusion:  These findings are consistent with the suggestion that psychosis may be trauma-induced, and other implications are considered.