Traumatic loss and psychosis – reconceptualising the role of trauma in psychosis

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

S. Vallath, L. Ravikanth, B. Regeer, P. C. Borba, D. C. Henderson & W. F. Scholte

https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2020.1725322

Abstract: 

Literature suggests that the occurrence of psychological trauma (PT) from various negative life experiences beyond events mentioned in the DSM-criterion A, receives little to no attention when comorbid with psychosis. In fact, despite research indicating the intricate interplay between PT and psychosis, and the need for trauma-focused interventions (TFI), there continue to be mixed views on whether treating PT would worsen psychosis, with many practitioners hesitating to initiate treatment for this reason. This study, therefore, aimed to understand patient perspectives on the role of PT in psychosis and related treatment options. A qualitative exploratory approach was adopted using in-depth interviews with individuals experiencing psychosis. The Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scale was administered on a predetermined maximum variation sample resulting in two groups of participants- those with moderate-mild disability (GAF 54–80; n = 10) and those experiencing moderate-severe disability (GAF 41–57; n = 10). With the former group, a semi-structured interview schedule was used, while with the latter, owing to multiple symptoms and difficulty in cognitive processing, a structured interview schedule was used. Results from interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) indicated that traumatic loss was central to experienced PT, but received no attention; this often contributed to the psychotic experience and/or depression, through maintenance factors such as cognitive distortions and attenuated affective responses. Further, the experience of loss seems to be more consequential to trauma-related symptoms than the event itself. Participants opined strongly the need for TFI and the role of it in promoting recovery from psychosis.

Keywords: Negative life experiences, Trauma Focused Interventions, Schizophrenia, Homelessness, traumatic loss

Received 29 Apr 2019, Accepted 14 Jan 2020, Published online: 26 Mar 2020

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