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Breaking from Reality: Study indicates prevalence of psychotic episodes among global population

Posted on 07-03-15 in Mental Health

Breaking from Reality: Study indicates prevalence of psychotic episodes among global population

Roughly 6 percent of the general population has experienced hallucinations or delusions at least once in their lifetime, according to a new study. In this study, published in the May issue of the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers noted that these episodes were not drug-related.

The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a survey of more than 31,000 people from 18 different countries. This study excluded individuals who had a psychiatric disorder that could cause hallucinations or delusions, such as manic depression and schizophrenia.

During the WHO survey, participants were asked questions surveying if they had ever seen things that weren’t there or heard voices that didn’t exist. Additionally, those surveyed responded to inquiries outlining any previous delusions including instances of paranoia, such as feeling followed or tracked. According to the American Psychiatric Association, delusions are “false or erroneous beliefs that usually involve a misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences” while hallucinations are sense-based perceptions, such as hearing voices, that occur outside of a person’s thoughts.

Co-author of the study and a professor at the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia, Dr. John McGrath, said, “We used to think that only people with psychosis heard voices or had delusions, but now we know that otherwise healthy, high-functioning people also report these experiences.”

Almost 6 percent of participants in the survey said that they experienced a delusion or hallucination at least once in their lives. Hallucinations proved to be more prevalent, with almost 5 percent of subjects experiencing at least one hallucination, compared to only around 1 percent experiencing a delusion.

The term “psychotic episode” refers to an incident in which an individual becomes disconnected from reality due to moments of delusion or hallucination. For most participants in the study, these types of experiences are infrequent. For those who have experienced a hallucination or delusion, about one out of three of those surveyed reported that it has happened only once. Roughly the same number of participants reported that these experiences occurred two to five times.

McGrath commented, “People should be reassured that there isn’t anything wrong with them if it happens once or twice.” He recommended that if these people are experiencing these occurrences on a regular basis, then they should seek mental health treatment.

The study’s results did find that psychotic experiences were slightly more prevalent among women than they were among men. According to researchers, 6.6 percent of women reported experiencing a delusion or hallucination, compared to 5 percent of men. The results suggested that people who were unemployed were more likely to have a psychotic episode than those who were employed. In the same vein, unmarried people were more prone to psychosis than married participants. The authors added that a major strength of this study is that it analyzed data that was gathered internationally, so the results were indicative of mental health patterns on a global scale. This may in turn help to contribute to and guide the growth of needed mental health care.

One in five Americans suffer from a mental illness and, unfortunately, many never receive treatment for their condition. Sovereign Health Group offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs across the country for patients who are struggling with mental health disorders, drug addiction and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who is struggling with a mental illness and is in need of mental health treatment, please do not hesitate to call or chat with a member of our team online to find the right treatment option for you.

Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer