Research Topic

Trauma, Psychosis, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Volume II

About this Research Topic

There is abundant evidence showing a strong association between trauma exposure, psychotic symptoms, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Early trauma exposure contributes to the formation of psychotic symptoms and the development of psychotic disorders or severe mental illnesses. Furthermore, among persons with psychotic disorders, traumatization over the lifetime is common, due to factors such as social stigma, the criminalization of severe mental illness, and increased vulnerability to interpersonal victimization. In addition to these factors is the traumatic nature of experiencing psychotic symptoms and coercive treatments such as involuntary hospitalization and placement in seclusion or restraints. Not surprisingly, high rates of trauma lead to high rates of PTSD in people with psychotic disorders, which are associated with more severe symptoms, worse functioning, and greater use of acute care services.

Recently there has been growing awareness of the trauma associated with racism (both current and historic) with an increased understanding of the interaction between racism, trauma, and serious mental illness. In addition, traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual and physical abuse can shape the nature of prominent psychotic symptoms such as the content of auditory hallucinations and delusional beliefs. Additionally, traumatic experiences are implicated in the role of ‘stress responsivity’ and increased risk for transition to psychosis in those identified as being at clinical high risk of developing psychosis. Finally, although the diagnostic criteria for PTSD primarily emphasize the effects of trauma on anxiety, avoidance, physiological over-arousal, and negative thoughts, it is well established that PTSD is frequently accompanied by psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions that cannot be attributed to another DSM-V Axis I disorder such as psychotic depression or schizophrenia. Understanding the contribution of traumatic experiences to the etiology of psychosis and other symptoms can inform the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy for psychosis, including the development of a shared formulation of the events leading up to the onset of the disorder, as well as other trauma-informed treatments that address distressing and disabling symptoms associated with trauma and psychosis.

Until recently the trauma treatment needs of this population have been neglected, despite the high rates of trauma and PTSD in persons with psychotic disorders, and in spite of substantial gains made in the treatment of PTSD in the general population. Fortunately, progress in recent years has provided encouraging evidence that PTSD can be effectively treated in people with psychotic disorders using interventions adapted from PTSD treatments developed for the general population. In contrast to clinician fears about the untoward effects of trauma-focused treatments on persons with a psychotic disorder, research indicates that post-traumatic disorders can be safely treated, and that participants frequently experience symptom relief and improved functioning.

We welcome contributions including (but not limited to) the following areas:
• Interplay between racial injustice, trauma, and psychosis
• Assessment of psychosis and trauma within a cultural framework
• Clinical case examples of the treatment of trauma and psychosis
• Clinical protocols and measures
• First person accounts of trauma and psychosis


Keywords: Trauma, Psychosis, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

There is abundant evidence showing a strong association between trauma exposure, psychotic symptoms, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Early trauma exposure contributes to the formation of psychotic symptoms and the development of psychotic disorders or severe mental illnesses. Furthermore, among persons with psychotic disorders, traumatization over the lifetime is common, due to factors such as social stigma, the criminalization of severe mental illness, and increased vulnerability to interpersonal victimization. In addition to these factors is the traumatic nature of experiencing psychotic symptoms and coercive treatments such as involuntary hospitalization and placement in seclusion or restraints. Not surprisingly, high rates of trauma lead to high rates of PTSD in people with psychotic disorders, which are associated with more severe symptoms, worse functioning, and greater use of acute care services.

Recently there has been growing awareness of the trauma associated with racism (both current and historic) with an increased understanding of the interaction between racism, trauma, and serious mental illness. In addition, traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual and physical abuse can shape the nature of prominent psychotic symptoms such as the content of auditory hallucinations and delusional beliefs. Additionally, traumatic experiences are implicated in the role of ‘stress responsivity’ and increased risk for transition to psychosis in those identified as being at clinical high risk of developing psychosis. Finally, although the diagnostic criteria for PTSD primarily emphasize the effects of trauma on anxiety, avoidance, physiological over-arousal, and negative thoughts, it is well established that PTSD is frequently accompanied by psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions that cannot be attributed to another DSM-V Axis I disorder such as psychotic depression or schizophrenia. Understanding the contribution of traumatic experiences to the etiology of psychosis and other symptoms can inform the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy for psychosis, including the development of a shared formulation of the events leading up to the onset of the disorder, as well as other trauma-informed treatments that address distressing and disabling symptoms associated with trauma and psychosis.

Until recently the trauma treatment needs of this population have been neglected, despite the high rates of trauma and PTSD in persons with psychotic disorders, and in spite of substantial gains made in the treatment of PTSD in the general population. Fortunately, progress in recent years has provided encouraging evidence that PTSD can be effectively treated in people with psychotic disorders using interventions adapted from PTSD treatments developed for the general population. In contrast to clinician fears about the untoward effects of trauma-focused treatments on persons with a psychotic disorder, research indicates that post-traumatic disorders can be safely treated, and that participants frequently experience symptom relief and improved functioning.

We welcome contributions including (but not limited to) the following areas:
• Interplay between racial injustice, trauma, and psychosis
• Assessment of psychosis and trauma within a cultural framework
• Clinical case examples of the treatment of trauma and psychosis
• Clinical protocols and measures
• First person accounts of trauma and psychosis


Keywords: Trauma, Psychosis, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2021 Abstract
05 November 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2021 Abstract
05 November 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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