One of the (two) main primary environmental risk factors that raise a genetically vulnerable teenager’s risk for developing schizophrenia (in addition to cannabis use) is the experience of childhood sexual or physical abuse. A new meta-study looked at 27,000 previous studies to ascertain the cumulative evidence supporting this finding. The gist: suffering any type of severe or sustained abuse before the age of 16 triples the risk of someone developing psychosis (compared to the general population) and schizophrenia specifically. Clearly, a child’s brain can take only so much.
Read the excerpt here and the whole article on Psych Central…
The researchers looked at more than 27,000 research papers to extract data from three types of studies: those addressing the progress of children known to have experienced adversity; studies of randomly selected members of the population; and research on psychotic patients who were asked about their early childhood.
Across all three types of studies, the results led to similar conclusions, according to the researchers. Children who had experienced any type of trauma before the age of 16 were approximately three times more likely to become psychotic in adulthood compared to those selected randomly from the population.
Researchers also found a relationship between the level of trauma and the likelihood of developing illness in later life. Those who were severely traumatized as children were at a greater risk, in some cases up to 50 times increased risk, than those who experienced trauma to a lesser extent.
The Liverpool researchers also conducted a new study that looked at the relationship between specific symptoms and the type of trauma experienced in childhood. They found that different traumas led to different symptoms. For example, childhood sexual abuse was associated with hallucinations, while being brought up in a children’s home was associated with paranoia.
The findings suggest that a patient’s life experiences need to be considered, along with neurological and genetic factors, said researcher and psychologist Dr. Richard Bentall.