BACKGROUND/AIMS - Previous studies point to an association between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and auditory hallucinations (AH). However, methodological issues limit the strength of these results. Here we compared childhood abuse between psychotic disorder patients and healthy control subjects using a reliable measure of abuse, and assessed the relationship between CSA and AH.
METHODS - 114 psychotic disorder patients and 81 healthy control subjects were administered the Structured Clinical Interview of the DSM-IV (SCID) and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). We compared the severity of abuse between groups, and tested the relationship between different types of childhood abuse and specific psychotic symptoms.
RESULTS - Psychotic patients reported more childhood abuse than controls (p<.001). Psychotic patients with a history of AH reported significantly more sexual, emotional, and physical abuse than patients without a history of AH (p<.05). Emotional and physical abuse, in the absence of sexual abuse, did not lead to a higher rate of AH. Finally, reports of childhood abuse did not increase the risk of any form of hallucination other than AH or of any form of delusion.
CONCLUSIONS - These results suggest that childhood abuse, especially childhood sexual abuse, shapes the phenotype of psychotic disorders by conferring a specific risk for AH.
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