Association between trauma exposure and delusional experiences in a large community-based sample

Br J Psychiatry. 2007 Apr:190:339-43. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.106.026708.


Background: Surveys have found that otherwise well individuals report delusional experiences. Previous studies have shown an association between psychotic symptoms and exposure to trauma.

Aims: To explore the association between trauma and delusional experiences in a community sample.

Method: Respondents (n=10 641) were assessed for delusional experiences, exposure to various types of traumatic experiences and the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The endorsement of delusional items was examined in people exposed to traumatic events who did or did not have PTSD.

Results: Exposure to any traumatic event but without the development of PTSD was associated with increased endorsement of delusional experiences (relative risk 2.68, 95% CI 2.18-3.30) and there was a significant dose-response relationship between the number of types of traumatic events and endorsement of such experiences (chi(2) =26.74, d.f.=2, P<0.001). A diagnosis of PTSD further increased endorsement of delusional experiences (RR=9.24, 95% CI 6.95-12.27). The association between PTSD and delusional experiences remained significant after adjusting for factors associated with psychotic symptoms.

Conclusions: Further investigation into the pathways between trauma, delusions and psychosis may provide insights into shared aetiological mechanisms underpinning these conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delusions / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotic Disorders / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Violence / psychology*