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Cognitive model, Trauma, Voice-hearing

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A key predictor of whether or not an individual who hears voices (auditory verbal hallucinations; AVH) meets criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis is the level of negative content of the voices (e.g., threats, criticism, abuse). Yet the factors that contribute to negative voice-content are still not well understood. This study aimed to test the hypotheses that levels of childhood adversity would predict levels of negative voice-content, and that negative voice-content would partially mediate a relation between childhood adversity and voice-related distress. These hypotheses were tested in a clinical sample of 61 patients with formally diagnosed psychotic disorders (48 schizophrenia, 13 bipolar). We found evidence consistent with negative voice-content fully (not partially) mediating the relation between childhood adversity and voice-related distress. Although bivariate analyses found depression to be associated with both negative voice-content and voice-related distress, we found no evidence of an indirect effect of childhood adversity on either negative voice-content or voice-related distress via depression. Alternative study designs are now needed to test if our findings are replicable and causal. Should they be, it will be necessary for psychological therapies to devise ways to reduce negative voice-content itself, rather than just changing beliefs about voices. A number of techniques are discussed (Avatar Therapy, Compassion Focused Therapy, voice-dialogue) that already show promise for this.

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Schizophrenia Research, v. 199, p. 361-366

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