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Psychotic-like experiences and interpersonal violence in the general population



Research on the association of psychopathology and violence has mainly focused on severe but rare mental disorders, especially psychotic disorders. However, evidence is growing that psychotic disorders are continuous with common psychotic-like experiences in the general population. This study aimed to examine the association of psychotic-like experiences with violence in a general population sample.


In 38,132 adult participants of the 2001 US National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, the association of psychotic-like experiences with violent behavior were examined.


Psychotic-like experiences were reported by 5.1% (N = 2,584) of adults in the community. These experiences were associated with increased risk of attacking someone with the intent of hurting that person (Odds Ratio [OR] = 5.72), intimate partner violence (OR = 4.97), arrests for aggravated assault (OR = 5.12), and arrests for other assault (OR = 3.65). The risk of violence increased with the number of psychotic-like experiences. Unusual perceptual experiences and paranoid ideations were more consistently associated with violence.


The link between psychopathology and interpersonal violence appears to expand beyond the limits of severe mental disorders and to include more common psychotic-like experiences in the general population.

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Correspondence to Ramin Mojtabai.

Appendix A

Appendix A

Psychotic-like experiences assessed in the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

The next questions are about unusual experiences that some people have. When you answer these questions, please do not include times when you were dreaming or half asleep, had a high fever, or were under the influence of llegal drugs or alcohol.
    During the past 12 months, have you heard voices—that is, voices that     other people said did not exist, voices coming from inside your head, or     voices coming out of the air when there was no one around?*     (hearing voices)
    During the past 12 months, have you seen a vision—that is, something     that other people could not see?* (seeing visions)
    During the past 12 months, have you felt that a force was taking over     your mind and trying to make you do things you didn’t want to do?*     (influence experiences)
    During the past 12 months, have you felt that some force was     inserting thoughts directly into your head by means of X-rays or     laser beams or other methods?* (thoughts inserted)
    During the past 12 months, have you felt that your own thoughts     were being stolen out of your mind by someone or something you     did not have control over?* (thoughts stolen)
    During the past 12 months, have you felt that some force was trying     to communicate directly with you by sending special signs or signals     that only you could understand?* (reference ideations)
    During the past 12 months, have you believed that there was an unfair     plot going on to harm you or to have people follow you—when your     family and friends did not believe that this was happening?*     (paranoid ideations)
*Each question was followed by the statement: “Remember, please do not include times when you were dreaming or half asleep, had a high fever, or were under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol.”

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Mojtabai, R. Psychotic-like experiences and interpersonal violence in the general population. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 41, 183–190 (2006).

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  • psychotic-like experiences
  • violence
  • aggression
  • general population surveys