6 August 2019

Understanding symptoms of childhood trauma could help treat psychosis

Understanding symptoms of childhood trauma could help treat psychosis

There is growing evidence of a link between childhood trauma and first-episode psychosis.

Research overseen by Orygen’s Dr Sarah Bendall has added to that body of evidence with a study showing that 53% of young people with psychosis had experienced childhood trauma.

“More than half of the young people who attend early psychosis services have experienced moderate to severe trauma. If we included mild traumas the percentage could be higher,” said the senior author of the research published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology.

The study investigated the relationships between trauma, psychotic symptoms (hallucinations and delusions), post-traumatic intrusions and trauma-related beliefs.

“Analyses revealed that post-traumatic intrusions were independently associated with hallucination severity,” Dr Bendall said.

“While post-traumatic intrusions and trauma-related beliefs were associated with delusion severity.”

The findings implied that treating post-traumatic intrusions and beliefs could lead to a reduction in psychotic symptoms.

“It gives us more confidence that we can treat some hallucinations and delusions with the same psychological interventions we use to treat PTSD,” said Dr Bendall.

Dr Bendall hoped that the research would lead to routine assessment and treatment of childhood trauma and post-traumatic stress in clinical services dealing with first-episode psychosis.

“We need early psychosis clinicians to be comfortable treating trauma and we need to have clear evidence-based treatments for them to use,” Dr Bendall said.

“It should be seen as a normal part of early psychosis treatment.”