What is helpful about psychotic experiences?

Presentation First Author: 
Mike Jackson

It has been hypothesised that psychotic experience in the normal population is 'self-limiting' and of 'good outcome'. This study aimed firstly to explore whether and how such experiences are felt to be helpful in the lives of those who report them as frequent events ('Uniques'); and secondly, how far these benefits are present in patients with psychotic disorders and 'Need for Care'(NFCs). In depth interviews were conducted with 140 participants as part of a larger study. For this study, 14 (7 NFC, 7 Unique) were randomly selected and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Six core themes emerged in the Unique participants. Their psychotic experiences were felt to be useful in bringing new information; social connection, support and guidance; a sense of purpose in life; personal growth; and positive emotional states. Each theme was also present in the NFC participants, but with more complex or negative connotations - new information was confusing; social connection deteriorated etc. Interestingly, from the researchers' perspective, the experiences described in both groups were strange, non-veridical, and potentially misleading. The core difference was in the social context of the experiences, with some participants finding a mileu in which they were accepted, but most NFCs being completely isolated with their experiences. Despite these differences several NFCs still felt that their experiences were deeply meaningful and had helped them. This study suggests that the distinction between benign and pathological psychosis depends heavily on social context; and that it is critical to appreciate the personal meaning of psychotic experiences

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
January, 2015
Additional Authors: 
Louise Brookwell - Philippa Garety - Emmanuelle Peters - Tom Ward
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