Identifying potential predictors of traumatic reactions to psychotic episodes.
Chisholm B., Freeman D., Cooke A.
OBJECTIVES: The experience of a psychotic episode can sometimes lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The objective of the research was to identify candidate predictors of such negative reactions for future prospective study. We examined six predictors identified from the PTSD and psychosis literatures in a retrospective study: a history of previous trauma, a history of previous episodes of psychosis, perceived helplessness and uncontrollability at the time of the index psychotic episode, the content of persecutory delusions at episode and the perceived presence of crisis support after the psychotic episode. DESIGN: The design was a cross-sectional self-report and interview study of people with recently remitted symptoms of psychosis. METHOD: 36 individuals with delusions and hallucinations that had remitted in the past year were assessed for the presence of PTSD symptoms in reaction to their most recent psychotic episode. Measures of the potential predictors were also taken at this point and associations with PTSD symptoms tested. RESULTS: 61% of the individuals with remitted positive symptoms had a reaction to their psychotic episode that was potentially severe enough to receive a PTSD diagnosis. Higher levels of PTSD symptoms were associated with all six predictors tested. CONCLUSIONS: The study provides further evidence that negative reactions to psychotic episodes are relatively common. Clinicians may wish to assess for such symptoms. The study extended these findings by identifying a number of candidate psychological predictors of PTSD reactions such as perceptions of uncontrollability and absence of support. Prospective longitudinal studies are required to test the causal significance of these factors. More broadly, the findings indicate that traumatic stress in response to intra-psychic events such as delusions can be understood in similar ways to traumatic stress arising from physical traumas such as disasters.