A new pilot study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology suggests that there is a thematic link between stressful life situations and the content of delusions.
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Hallucinations and delusions are typically considered as core signs of mental illness, but they can also be associated with other psychiatric disorders. Delusions are defined as very strong beliefs that usually stand in contradiction to reality. The person that experiences them is so strongly convinced that they are true, that he or she maintains that they are real regardless of the facts, rational arguments or objective information.
Our perception of the world is influenced by many factors, including culture, religion, family, popular beliefs, traditions, and many others. Likewise, various situations that we experience throughout our lifetime change the way that we think about and see the world. Our experiences create ”imprints” in our mind thereby influencing the way that we behave. Stressful and traumatic experiences often have a greater impact on our subconscious as they can change our self-perception and feeling of security. Delusions often arise when an individual with past trauma perceives that they are in danger and feels unsafe. Moreover, feelings associated with the previous incidents are pulled into the newly created self-perception and cause delusional behavior.
Delusions themselves take on many forms and can be triggered by different situations. A new pilot study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology compared stressful life situations and tried to establish whether there is a correlation between these and specific types of delusional behaviors. The study was conducted on a group of youth that had a history of stressful events and was beginning to show signs of psychological instability but was not receiving any medical treatment. The events that triggered mental health problems varied, but they were similar in that they were socially or emotionally threatening.
The researchers found that events that occur during childhood and adolescence and have an emotional impact on the individual are often directly linked to paranoid beliefs. Those events may be related to humiliating experiences (e.g. bullying), loss of an important person, personal or family illness, or even body changes occurring during puberty. The study found that bullying, excessive criticism, and marginalization tend to produce a belief of being observed and followed or even tormented by unknown individuals. Experiences of loss on the other hand are often correlated with delusions of being at risk of a deadly disease.
The results of the study suggest that there is a thematic link between past experiences and the content of delusions. This thematic link may provide clinicians and therapists with a greater understanding of the thoughts and emotions that their patients experience, as well as play a vital role in supporting those young people who are at risk of developing mental illness. The findings may also help to better tailor the treatments and health services and contribute to greater psychotherapeutic understanding.
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The Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is an Open Access, scientific journal of research and practice covering a broad scope of high value articles in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology. The journal publishes quantitative and qualitative research on: diagnosis, assessment, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatments, behavior, cognition, epidemiology, development, training, cross cultural issues, neuroscience and genetic aspects related to mental disorders in children, adolescents and families.
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