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September 25, 2019

Psychotic Experiences in the General Population: Symptom Specificity and the Role of Distress and Dysfunction

Author Affiliations
  • 1Connecticut Mental Health Center, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(12):1228-1229. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.2391

It has been more than 125 years since Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick first reported an unusually high rate of hallucinations in a general census of the population of Cambridgeshire, England.1 Yet despite the endorsement of prominent psychologists of the day, such as William James, MD—and likely in part because of Mrs Sidgwick’s affiliation with the Society for Psychical Research—this observation played little discernable role in the development of the emerging, predominantly categorically defined nosology of psychosis. Nonetheless, the lifetime incidence of psychotic experiences among individuals in the general population has been repeatedly estimated to be greater than 5% across large international samples.2 Many affected individuals do not seek psychiatric help and yet report experiences remarkably similar to those seen in classically defined psychosis, with some notable and informative exceptions.3

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