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Schizophrenia and trauma: Ignored connections

9 December 2005


The causes and manifestations of schizophrenia are not entirely understood, yet approximately 1 % of the world's population are thought to suffer from the disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The etiology and course of schizophrenia still present unanswered questions. For example, a possible connection between life trauma and schizophrenia has long been debated. Current research indicates that 98% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia have had at least one traumatic life event at some point in their lives (Mueser, Goodman, Trumbetta, Rosenberg, Osher, Vidaver, et aI., 1998; Resnick, Bond, & Mueser, 2003). The purpose of this literature review is to examine research on the role of trauma in the schizophrenic life experience and to review current treatments for both schizophrenia and trauma, as well as to discuss the application of treatments to address both issues in therapy. As shown in this review, in both research and clinical work with people diagnosed with schizophrenia, trauma is often not assessed and is therefore not diagnosed or treated. Treatment of schizophrenia typically focuses on social skills and the use of psychotropic medications while excluding consideration of traumatic life experiences. Conversely, current treatment approaches for trauma are generally not designed for individuals with psychotic symptoms. Thus, it appears that current treatments do not address one common and important aspect of the experience of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia.


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