Auditory verbal hallucinations and childhood trauma subtypes across the psychosis continuum: a cluster analysis

Cognitive Neuropsychiatry

M. J. H. Begemann, I. E. Sommer, R. M. Brand, P. P. Oomen, A. Jongeneel, J. Berkhout, R. E. Molenaar, N. N. Wielage, W. L. Toh, S. L. Rossell & I. H. Bell


Introduction: A strong link between voice-hearing experience and childhood trauma has been established. The aim of this study was to identify whether there were unique clusters of childhood trauma subtypes in a sample across the clinical spectrum of auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) and to examine clinical and phenomenological features across these clusters.

Methods: Combining two independent international datasets (the Netherlands and Australia), childhood trauma subtypes were examined using hierarchical cluster analysis. Clinical and phenomenological characteristics were compared across emerging clusters using MANOVA and chi-squared analyses.

Results: The total sample (n = 413) included 166 clinical individuals with a psychotic disorder and AVH, 122 non-clinical individuals with AVH and 125 non-clinical individuals without AVH. Three clusters emerged: (1) low trauma (n = 299); (2) emotion-focused trauma (n = 71); (3) multi-trauma (n = 43). The three clusters differed significantly on their AVH ratings of amount of negative content, with trend-level effects for loudness, degree of negative content and degree of experienced distress. Furthermore, perceptions of voices being malevolent, benevolent and resistance towards voices differed significantly.

Conclusion: The data revealed different types of childhood trauma had different relationships between clinical and phenomenological features of voice-hearing experiences. Thus, implicating different mechanistic pathways and a need for tailored treatment approaches.

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