, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 29-35
Date: 02 Nov 2006

The subjective consequences of suffering a first episode psychosis: trauma and suicide behaviour

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The subjective impact of a psychotic breakdown can be profound, potentially resulting in loss of social roles, hopes and aspirations and leading to stigmatisation, trauma and elevated suicide risk. This study aimed to assess the subjective effect and consequences of suffering a first episode of psychosis. It was hypothesised that suicide behaviour would be associated with the negative consequences of psychosis and co-morbid symptomatic-PTSD.


Patients were assessed by means of a semi-structured interview on their reactions and experience of their psychotic episode and its treatment and by means of standardised methods for psychotic (PANSS) and trauma-related (CAPS) symptoms.


A total of 35 patients suffering their first episode of psychosis were interviewed. As a result of the onset of their illness, 77% indicated they had suffered loss or disruption to their life, 60% had thwarted future aspirations, 38% had suffered violence or harassment, 53% had suffered stigma and 50% social exclusion. Totally, 80% felt they had been traumatised by their treatment and 38% were cases for symptomatic-PTSD. Symptomatic-PTSD was significantly associated with involuntary hospitalisation but not psychotic symptoms. Positive psychotic symptoms were associated with harassment, stigma and social exclusion. Suicidal ideation was reported by 40% and 31% reported attempting suicide. Suicidal behaviour was greater in those suffering symptomatic-PTSD but this was not significant, suicidal behaviour was significantly associated with the experience of trauma, but not the severity of that trauma, prior to the onset of their psychosis.


The negative consequences of a psychotic episode are significant. The potential iatrogenic effect of psychiatric care needs to be considered. Interventions need to be developed to reduce traumatisation and suicide risk.