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Child Abuse Psychosis European Studies NZ Findings

Child Abuse And Psychosis: European Studies Confirm New Zealand Finding

Two large studies, in Holland and Britain, have confirmed controversial New Zealand findings of high levels of child abuse among people diagnosed with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

Last year a team of University of Auckland researchers, led by Dr John Read, published their findings that psychiatric patients who had been physically and sexually abused as children were four times more likely than non-abused patients to experience hallucinations in general and fifteen times more likely to hear voices telling them to harm themselves or others.

Dr Read is editor of the recently published book Models of Madness (Routledge, 2004) in which 23 international researchers present the research showing that hallucinations and delusions are understandable reactions to life events rather than symptoms of a genetically-based illness, and are more safely and effectively treated with human rather than chemical solutions.

In the September edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry, a team from the Psychiatry Dept. of University College London (led by Dr Paul Bebbington) present the outcome of a study of 8580 people. Those with psychotic disorders were three times more likely than people with less severe disorders, and 15 times more likely than those with no disorder, to have been sexually abused. Other factors found to be more common in people with psychosis included: being bullied, experiencing violence in the home, being placed in a childrens' institution and running away from home. The researchers concluded: "In people with psychosis, there is a marked excess of victimizing experiences, many of which will have occurred during childhood. This is suggestive of a social contribution to aetiology [causation]"

Earlier this year a Dutch study of 4045 found that adults who had been abused as children were seven times more likely to develop 'pathology level psychosis'. As in the earlier New Zealand study, the most severely abused were the most likely to become psychotic. In the Dutch study those who had experienced the most severe levels of abuse were 48 times more likely than non-abused people to develop psychosis. (Janssen, et al., 2004 * Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica).

Dr Read: "Given the mixed response to our original study we are pleased that these larger studies have confirmed our New Zealand research. Now perhaps we can move beyond debating the issue to doing something about it".

For a review copy of Models of Madness: j.read@auckland.ac.nz

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