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A network analysis of post-traumatic stress and psychosis symptoms

Hardy, A., O'Driscoll, C., Steel, C., van der Gaag, M. and van den Berg, D. (2021) A network analysis of post-traumatic stress and psychosis symptoms. Psychological Medicine, 51 (14). pp. 2485-2492. ISSN 1469-8978

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0033291720001300


Background: Understanding the interplay between trauma-related psychological mechanisms and psychotic symptoms may improve the effectiveness of interventions for post-traumatic stress reactions in psychosis. Network theory assumes that mental health problems persist not because of a common latent variable, but from dynamic feedback loops between symptoms, thereby addressing the heterogeneous and overlapping nature of traumagenic and psychotic diagnoses. This is a proof-of-concept study examining interactions between post-traumatic stress symptoms, which were hypothesized to reflect trauma-related psychological mechanisms, and auditory hallucinations and delusions. Method: Baseline data from two randomised controlled trials (N = 216) of trauma-focused therapy in people with post-traumatic stress symptoms (87.5% met PTSD diagnostic criteria for PTSD) and psychotic disorder were analysed. Reexperiencing, hyperarousal, avoidance, trauma-related beliefs, auditory hallucinations and delusional beliefs were used to estimate a Gaussian graphical model along with expected node influence and predictability (proportion of explained variance). Results: Trauma-related beliefs had the largest direct influence on the network and together with hypervigilance, were implicated in the shortest paths from flashbacks to delusions and auditory hallucinations. Conclusions: These findings are in contrast to previous research suggesting a central role for re-experiencing, emotional numbing and interpersonal avoidance in psychosis. Trauma-related beliefs were the psychological mechanism most associated with psychotic symptoms, although not all relevant mechanisms were measured. This work demonstrates that investigating multiple putative mediators may clarify which processes are most relevant to trauma-related psychosis. Further research should use network modelling to investigate how the spectrum of traumatic stress reactions play a role in psychotic symptoms.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:91411
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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