University of Hertfordshire

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Psychosis and sexual abuse: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-549
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Early online date25 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the first-person perspective of psychosis sufferers who survived childhood sexual abuse. Methods: Interpretative phenomenological analysis was employed to explore the experiences of 7 women with a history of sexual abuse and psychosis. Results: Analysis generated six themes: (a) degradation of self, interlinking shame, guilt, and sometimes disgust; (b) body-self entrapment, experiencing bodily constraint and distortion; (c) a sense of being different to others, involving interpersonal problems; (d) unending struggle and depression, a pervasive sense of defeat; (e) psychotic condemnations and abuse, describing psychotic phenomena related to harm and sexual abuse; and (f) perception of links to the past, the links made from past abuse to current functioning. Conclusion: Participants suffered extreme psychological, physical, and interpersonal difficulties past and present. Psychotic experiences reported exhibited themes of condemnation by external entities and reflected the topic of sexual abuse. Participants did not generally link psychosis to their past abusive experiences.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: J. E. Rhodes, N. D. O’Neill, and P. W. Nel, ‘Psychosis and sexual abuse: An interpretative phenomenological analysis’, Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, March 2018, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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