By Catherine Amey
Key Themes: Mental Health, Psychosis, Medical
Psychosis through My Eyes: a Personal and Professional Journey draws on the author’s personal experience of psychosis and 15 years of expertise as a medical writer to provide an information and support book for patients who have experienced psychosis. In addition, the book contains the author’s own story. Psychosis through My Eyes: a Personal and Professional Journey will also be of interest to healthcare professionals.
Review by Professor Malcolm Lader, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.
This book is a unique combination of a distressing, even harrowing account of personal experience of psychosis and the scientific knowledge concerning this disorder. As a psychiatrist, I tend to seek the commonalities among psychiatric “patients” and I can easily underestimate or even overlook the profound mental disturbances which are so individual to each person. Catherine (who I have met and worked with) is one of the most efficient and balanced people that I have encountered. I never suspected for a moment that she had suffered to such extent and that my profession had been so inept in trying to help her. Even after my decades of clinical experience she gave me new insights into what it is like to suffer delusions and hallucinations, to lose touch with what we take as reality, and the extreme effort needed to set in train any possible recovery. I will read and re-read the first part of the book, recounting in an objective, intelligent and unashamed way what transpired. Even so the fear of suffering the stigma of mental illness is apparent in her account.
The second part of the book is a careful, knowledgeable and critical overview of the numerous factors that play a role in the antecedents, onset, maintenance and treatment of psychoses – schizophrenia, bipolar illness and the hybrid schizoaffective disorder. It is a highly recommendable introduction to the topics and well within the capabilities of patients, families and carers to understand as it avoids jargon.
The third part is an invaluable listing of sources of help for patients. Too often the mental health services, both lay and professional, are difficult to access and sufferers become desperate for help both within and outside the usual agencies. No longer – this book provides a compendium of what is needed to seek and hopefully receive adequate aid, support and treatment.
I unreservedly recommend this book to all those with mental health difficulties who seek help, solace and enlightenment, and to those carers who strive to lessen that burden.
About the Author
Catherine Amey was born in Slough in 1972. She studied Biochemistry at the University of Bristol and after graduation, worked in medical publishing. Catherine wrote this book after experiencing a psychotic, manic episode that was thought to have been caused by prescribed antidepressant medication. She continues to work in medical publishing. Catherine lives in Worthing with her husband, Dom, and son, Freddie.
Childhood trauma is a term used to include a range of negative experiences, including neglect as well as physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Whether childhood trauma increases the risk of psychosis in adulthood remains controversial, however, there is accumulating evidence to support a link. Several studies based on large populations have found an association between various types of childhood trauma and psychosis.65–67 In addition, the more severe the abuse, the stronger the link.66,68 In one study, which included 4045 adults, those who had been abused as children were nine times more likely than non-abused people to experience psychosis.66 There was also a sliding scale with the worst kinds of abuse being associated with the higher risk of psychosis; those who had experienced the most severe abuse were 48.4 times more likely to develop psychosis than those who had not been abused. Those who reported moderately severe abuse were 10.6 times more likely to develop psychosis than individuals who had not been abused and those reporting the least severe abuse were only two times more likely to develop psychosis.
Psychosis has also been linked to childhood bullying.69,70 Similar to the case with cannabis exposure, there also appears to be a relationship between the extent of bullying and the risk of developing psychosis. In one study of 6437 British children, those who had suffered both overt bullying or relational bullying (rejection by peers) were more likely to experience psychosis than those who had suffered just one type of bullying.70 The link between psychosis and bullying has been reported not just for victims but also for the bullies themselves.71 Studies suggest that bullies and their victims tend to come from homes where the parents are neglectful.
It has been reported that hallucinations and delusions experienced during psychosis sometimes reflect the actual abuse.73 There is also evidence that the disclosures of abuse made by people diagnosed with psychosis are reliable.74,75 In fact, a parallel has been drawn between some psychotic hallucinations and memories or ‘flash-backs’ of traumatic events that are usually considered to indicate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that causes psychological trauma. It is commonly associated with ex-service men and women but war is only one of many types of trauma that can lead to PTSD. PTSD and psychosis have been suggested to be different ways of responding to psychological trauma and there may be overlap between the diagnoses of each. One theory of psychosis suggests it is the cultural unacceptability of an experience that determines whether or not a person is viewed as psychotic.74 Take for example, a person hearing a critical voice, a voice which no one else can hear, saying “she is ugly”. If they describe the experience as being related to past abuse, then this is likely to be regarded as a flashback in PTSD. If, however, the experience is not described as being linked to past psychological trauma and is described instead as being a current, real voice, it is more likely that the person would be regarded as psychotic. The diagnosis of psychosis in someone who is also a survivor of trauma may mean that their traumatic experiences have not been properly addressed.
This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 05 April, 2012.