Trauma and psychosis: a qualitative study exploring the perspectives of people with psychosis on the influence of traumatic experiences on psychotic symptoms and quality of life

BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Mar 24;22(1):213. doi: 10.1186/s12888-022-03808-3.


Background: Despite experiencing high rates of trauma and trauma-related conditions, people with psychosis are seldomly asked about possible traumatic events. While there are some barriers to discussing trauma in clinical services, research has shown that disclosure is not only possible but also beneficial to both psychotic and traumatic symptoms. The current study is the first to evaluate service users' perception of the influence of trauma on the development and maintenance of their psychotic symptoms, as well as their views on how their life and mental health have been affected by traumatic events and their disclosure (or lack of).

Methods: Eleven participants with experiences of psychosis and trauma took part in semi-structured interviews.

Results: Consistently with previous literature, our participants reported high rates of interpersonal trauma, but had rarely had the opportunity to discuss any of these events. Using thematic analysis, we identified three major themes that have important implications for healthcare: factors that facilitate or hinder talking about trauma; consequences of talking or not; and relationship between trauma and psychosis. Participants generally benefited from talking about trauma and concerningly often associated the prolonged lack of opportunities to discuss traumatic events with negative feelings towards the self and with a deterioration of their mental health. Participants also recognised direct links between past traumas and the content and characteristics of their psychotic experiences.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight the importance, as perceived by service users, of discussing trauma and looking at psychosis through a "trauma lens". These results stress the need to systematically assess trauma history and traumatic symptoms in psychosis and might potentially help to overcome clinicians' worries about discussing trauma with service users. Our findings underscore the need to change current practice and implement trauma-informed approaches to understand clients' difficulties and provide support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Psychotic Disorders* / psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life*