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Physical, sexual and emotional abuse in childhood may lead to severe hallucinations in schizophrenia, say scientists who found that symptoms of childhood trauma and psychotic disorders can be managed with similar therapies.
Researcher including those from University of Melbourne in Australia and University Hospital of Gran Canaria in Spain established a link between childhood trauma and some of schizophrenia's most common symptoms.
People with schizophrenia may now benefit from more effective, tailored treatments and greater self-empowerment, researchers said.
The study's strongest finding was that hallucinations in those with psychotic disorders were associated with all types of childhood trauma, said Sarah Bendall, head of trauma research at Orygen, a mental health service in Australia.
"This means there's something about childhood trauma that leads some people to develop hallucinations," Bendall said.
The meta-analysis, which analysed 29 studies on childhood trauma and psychotic symptoms, also found that childhood sexual abuse was associated with delusions.
The study, published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, provides the missing link for clinicians who have long theorised about the association between childhood trauma and hallucinations and delusions.
Bendall said providing this evidence was a crucial first step in developing tailored, sensitive and effective treatments for trauma-based psychotic symptoms.
Around one in every 100 people will experience a psychotic disorder in their lives, with the majority developing symptoms at 18-25 years old.
Psychotic symptoms can include detachment from reality, hallucinations, delusions, disorganised thinking, and lack of motivation or emotion.
Bendall said the new research would not only help refine treatments for patients with psychotic disorders but may also help to empower young patients.
"When young people come to youth mental health services, we should be assessing for trauma and for emerging psychotic symptoms, and treating them as soon as they emerge," Bendall said.