Child sexual abuse may be important cause of schizophrenia

Child sexual abuse may be important cause of schizophrenia

Charlotte Fantelli

Professor Paul Bebbington told the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists that childhood sexual abuse has been shown to be an important predictor of schizophrenia later in life.


Bebbington, Head of the Department of Mental Health Sciences at University College London, told the Congress that child sexual abuse has been found to be a strong contributing cause of 17% of cases of psychotic illness, this includes schizophrenia.

“The worse the abuse, the more it increases the risk of developing psychosis." he says.

The incidence of which are quite statistically shocking. Professor Bebbington states: "Someone who has experienced non-consensual sexual intercourse before the age of 16 is 10 times more likely to develop the mental disorder.”

Professor Bebbington is the lead researcher on the new research which is published in the July issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. The researchers found that non-consensual sexual intercourse before the age of 16 was strongly associated with psychosis. They also found associations between psychosis with being sexually molested and inappropriate sexual talk, although these were weaker.

“The increased risk of psychosis may be linked to the intrusive nature of childhood sexual abuse and having no control over what is happening to you." Professor Bebbington told the Congress. 

Even in those who do not experience psychosis, any sexually inappropriate act on a child has major repercussions for the victim. Professor Bebbington says "It has disastrous effects on self-esteem and psychological well-being, and is linked to paranoia and suspiciousness – even in people who don’t go on to develop psychosis."

It is advised that those who suffer abuse have the appropriate care they need to recover, before a disorder has chance to develop. We hope that these findings help the services that be, ensure victims get the best possible care.

Please see here for more on schizophrenia and more on abuse.

For further information on schizophrenia you may like to read Ian Birch's blog

You can live a full meaningful life with schizophrenia

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