17.01.2018 change 17.01.2018

Focusing on risks can increase the risk of psychosis

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Paying attention to risks may increase the risk of delusions in the future - shows research by scientists from the Jagiellonian University. By influencing the perception of reality by people susceptible to psychotic disorders, one could reduce the probability of psychosis.

About 5-10 percent population and 13-36 percent patients diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer from an increased social anxiety. The fact that it precedes the occurrence of psychoses - sometimes even many years before their occurrence - has been demonstrated in many studies.

"If we are dealing with a person characterized by social anxiety, then the probability increases that one day that person will develop psychosis. This is a good predictor of psychosis" - said Dr. Katarzyna Prochwicz from the Institute of Psychology of the Jagiellonian University, quoted in the release sent to PAP.

Previous studies have not shown, however, what connects social anxiety and the occurrence of psychosis. How does anxiety lead to psychotic disorders? Dr. Prochwicz\'s research has shown that the element connecting these two states can be the so-called cognitive bias. It means focusing on selected aspects of reality, for example on threats, and failing to notice other aspects.

"The study has shown that in social anxiety, sensitivity to negative stimuli is what may contribute to the persecutory delusions after many years" - said Dr. Prochwicz.

The study was conducted on over 200 people between 16 and 82 years, experiencing the so-called psychotic symptoms. During the study, researchers checked the level of social anxiety exhibited by the subjects and how this anxiety can affect the emergence of psychotic symptoms.

The researcher explained that by reversing cognitive bias or modifying it - which can be done with the help of special training - theoretically it would be possible to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing delusions. "We would eliminate the factor that favours them. Similar solutions are already being offered to people who suffer from psychotic disorders. This can also be done in people at risk of psychosis, for example relatives of people who suffer from psychoses, who are at risk of this type of disorder" - she noted.

Dr. Prochwicz\'s previous research shows that as much as 98 percent Poles have experienced symptoms similar to those of psychosis at least once in their life: they felt that they were persecuted in some way; that some people were not the ones they seemed to be; that an institution had something against them; or that people were saying things that had double meaning.

"However, if they are one-time or incidental experiences and not absorbing thoughts, the chances of psychotic disorders developing in the future will be small. Worse, if they are accompanied by strong stress or we are sure that our belief is true" - she noted.

More about the study published in Psychiatry Research at: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.07.007

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