Women's Experiences of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Psychosis in Adulthood
Objective: To date there have been few if any qualitative studies of adults who have experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA) followed by psychotic experiences later in life. This study aimed to explore how a sample of four women make sense of their childhood experiences of sexual abuse and their psychotic experiences later in life. Methodology: Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews with four women. The data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) in order to develop a detailed understanding of the women’s search for meaning in their own lives. Results: Four major themes emerged from the analysis of the women’s accounts: ‘Interpersonal difficulties,’ ‘Striving to Get Better’ and ‘A Relationship with Shame’ and ‘Links Between CSA, Mental health & Psychosis’. These are explored in detail. Conclusions: The women’s accounts highlight the ongoing difficulty of living with psychosis and CSA, in particular, the role of psychosis in exacerbating isolation, shame and negative self perceptions. Attention is also drawn to the development of competence for therapists in this area of work. Clinical Implications: Supporting and validating existing healthy coping strategies as well as exploration of the interaction of psychosis and CSA through psychological mechanisms of shame as well as family / society discourses. Therapist/ researcher selfawareness is crucial in supporting clients with such traumatic histories.