Category Archives: Psychosis And Its Link To Childhood Trauma

Concise articles exploring the link between childhood trauma and psychosis, including schizophrenia, hallucinations and impaired reality testing.

Reality Testing And Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

BPD, borderline personality disorder and reality testing

What Is Meant By ‘Reality Testing’?

Reality testing, a concept originally introduced by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), can be described as the capacity of an individual perceive the external events going on around him/her objectively, accurately and based on conventional interpretation rather than in a way distorted by internal mental factors. The Medical Dictionary defines it as : ‘The objective evaluation of the external world and differentiation between it and the ego or self.’

Impaired Reality Testing :

Reality testing is most obviously impaired

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Psychotic Depression, Schizophrenia And Childhood Trauma Sub-Types

childhood trauma, schizophrenia and psychotic depression

Sub-Types Of Childhood Trauma :

As we have seen from other articles I have published on this site, childhood trauma can be split into 4 main sub-types : emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect.

In this article, I briefly describe some of the main research findings in regard to the association between childhood trauma and risk of suffering from psychosis as an adult.

More specifically, I will examine which specific sub-types of childhood trauma may particularly increase an individual’s risk of developing

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Psychotic ‘Hallucinations’ : Could They Be Trauma-Based Memories?

are hallucinations trauma-based memories?

The renowned UK psychologist, Oliver James, argues both eloquently and convincingly in his most enlightening book :  ‘Not In Your Genes’, that the extremely serious and distressing psychiatric disorder, schizophrenia , is

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BPD And Hallucinations

bpd and hallucinations

What Are Hallucinations?

Hallucinations are PERCEPTIONS that people experience but which are NOT caused by external stimuli/ input. However, to the person experiencing hallucinations, these perceptions feel AS IF THEY ARE REAL and that they are being generated by stimuli/ input outside of themselves (in fact, of course, the perceptions are being INTERNALLY GENERATED by the brain of the person who is experiencing the hallucination).

Different Types Of Hallucination :

There are several different types of hallucination and I summarize these below :

  • VISUAL HALLUCINATIONS – these involve ‘seeing’ something that in reality does not exist or ‘seeing’ something that does exist in a DISTORTED / ALTERED form.
  • AUDITORY HALLUCINATIONS – these, most often, involve ‘hearing’ voices that have no external reality (though other ‘sounds’ may be hallucinated, too).
  • TACTILE HALLUCINATIONS – these occur when an individual feels as if s/he is being touched when, in fact, s/he isn’t (for example, feeling the sensation of insects crawling over one’s skin).
  • GUSTATORY HALLUCINATIONS – these occur when a person perceives a ‘taste’ in his/her mouth in the absence of any external to the person causing the taste.
  • OLFACTORY HALLUCINATION – this type of hallucination is sometimes also referred to as phantosmia and involves perceiving a smell which isn’t actually present.

bpd and hallucinations

BPD And Hallucinations :

Mild

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Those Raised In Care Homes More Likely To Develop Paranoia

raised in care home

In the past, research on how schizophrenia develops in individuals focused heavily on genetic factors. However, more recent research is now making it increasingly clear that the environment in which we grew up is strongly related to our chances of developing a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, in adulthood. Indeed, a meta-analysis of the relevant research, conducted at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, suggests that those individuals who were brought up in

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Early Signs Of Psychosis

early signs of psychosis

We have seen through other articles that I have published on this site that, all else being equal, those who experienced a chronically stressful and traumatic childhood are more likely to develop a psychotic condition during their adulthood than are their more fortunate contemporaries who experienced relatively stable childhoods.

However, usually a person does not suddenly become psychotic. Instead, the onset of psychosis is often a gradual process and sometimes

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Psychotic Delusions: The Main Types

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that those who have suffered severe childhood trauma are more likely to develop various psychiatric conditions in adult life than those who avoided such experiences (all else being equal).

Two of these conditions : A) DEPRESSION WITH PSYCHOTIC FEATURES (click here to read my article about the link between childhood trauma and depression) and B) SCHIZOPHRENIA

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Schizophrenia: Study Reveals Those Traumatized In Childhood Up To Fifty Times More Likely To Develop It

effects_of_childhood_trauma_ptsf

Does Childhood Trauma Cause Schizophrenia?

I remember when I was doing my first degree in psychology at the University of London that, when we studied schizophrenia, in trying to explain its causes we concentrated largely upon examining genetic explanations and, also, explanations based upon the existence of individual differences in brain chemistry and brain biology.

More recently, however, evidence has been accumulating that if an individual suffers childhood trauma then this, too, puts him/ her at greater risk of developing this most debilitating of psychiatric conditions.

Indeed, a study at the University of Liverpool and Maastricht in the Netherlands lends support to this theory. The study looked at data from three groups of people

a) individuals who were known to have suffered childhood trauma who were followed up in their adult lives (the study was

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Psychotic Symptoms In Adolescence Linked To Childhood Trauma

 adolescent psychotic symptoms

A recent study (Upthegrove et al) has shown that individuals who have experienced significant childhood trauma are far more likely to experience early (ie during adolescence) symptoms of psychosis than those fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable childhood.

The study involved over 200 young people and focused upon the effects on these individuals’ mental health of the following categories of childhood trauma:

1) Physical abuse

2) Sexual abuse

3) The witnessing

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Childhood Trauma : BPD and Brief Psychotic Episodes

brief psychotic episodes

I have already published many articles about the link between the experience of significant childhood trauma and the later development of borderline personality disorder (BPD) – click here to read one such article.

If we are unfortunate enough to develop BPD following a traumatic childhood, in some cases (NOT all) we may, especially during periods of acute stress, be prone to what psychologists and psychiatrists refer to as brief psychotic episodes.

Such brief psychotic episodes can

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Psychotic Depression: The Symptoms

disturbing_unprocessed_memories

Psychotic Depression And Childhood Trauma :

Those of us who experienced severe childhood trauma are at a substantially higher risk of developing depression as adults than those lucky enough to have had a relatively stable upbringing. However, it is not well known amongst the general public that, in a minority of cases, depression can be so severe that it involves disturbing psychotic symptoms (estimates suggest that about 13% of those who suffer from serious depression will experience psychotic features, and this percentage can rise steeply amongst geriatric populations – perhaps as high as 50%). It is these symptoms that I will describe in this article.

symptoms_of_psychotic_depression

Symptoms of Psychotic Depression :

Symptoms of psychotic depression may include the following:

1) DISJOINTED THINKING – The ability to think can become severely impaired and the thoughts a person has may become very muddled and confused, rapidly flitting from one subject to another. This can make concentration impossible and lead to speech patterns which are difficult for others to follow and understand.

2) AGITATION/PACING – During my own illness I suffered very badly from this. For years I

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Schizoid Personality Disorder

schizoid personality disorder

What is schizoid personality disorder, what is the relative contribution of genes and environment in its development and what is the prognosis?

This condition is not as well understood as many other mental health conditions; this is, in no small part, due to the fact that those with the disorder often do not feel that there is anything particularly wrong with them that warrants psychiatric attention, and, furthermore,would not wish to invite such attention.

However, we do know that the condition occurs at a greater frequency amongst men than amongst women; we also know that it is likely to have a genetic component

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Borderline Personality Disorder – Possible Psychotic Symptoms

childhood_trauma_effects

Occasionally, some individuals who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD) may develop transient (short-lasting) psychotic symptoms ; these are also sometimes referred to as : psychotic episodes, psychotic experiences or ‘breaks from reality.’

What is Psychosis?

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Psychosis can involve :

– seeing things which are not there (visual hallucinations)

– hearing things which are not there eg the sufferer might believe they can hear voices telling them to harm, or

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Childhood Trauma And Psychosis

Childhood Trauma And Psychosis :

‘The psychiatric profession is about to experience an earthquake that will shake its intellectual foundations…there is tectonic, plate-shifting evidence'[for the environmental basis of psychosis]’

-Oliver James (leading UK psychologist). Comment in relation to the now overwhelming evidence that psychosis is strongly related to childhood trauma and the need to stop over-focusing on biological causes.

There is now extremely strong research evidence showing the link between

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