NeuRA-Profile-2016 - page 9

CHILDHOOD—
09
In thefirst studyof itskind, DrKristinLaurenshasbeenpart
of agroupof researchers interested inhow schematicbeliefs
– that is, beliefs formedearly in lifeand shapedbychildhood
experience –maybeassociatedwithunusual, or psychotic-
like, experiences inchildren. It is thought that improving
negative schematicbeliefs inyoungpeoplemaybeauseful
therapeutic target for thoseat riskof developingpsychosis.
Schemas influencehowwe interpret theactionsof others,
processour emotions andbehave. If the schemas arenegative
theymaycauseaperson tobelieve theyareunlovable
orworthless, or that other peopleareuntrustworthyor
judgemental. Thesenegativebeliefs about the self or others
aremoreoften seen inpeoplewithpsychosis, whencompared
with thebeliefsheldbyhealthy individuals.
Psychotic-likeexperiences arenon-clinical formsof symptoms
that are reportedbypeoplewithpsychosis, suchashearing
voices that others can’t hear, feelingsof beingwatchedor
having special power. Thesearecommon inyoungpeople in
thegeneral population, but persistenceof theseexperiences
is associatedwithdistress and increases the likelihoodof later
mental healthproblems.
If addressedearly, for exampleaspart of acognitive-
behavioural intervention, thechance to improvenegative
schemasbefore theybecomefixedbeliefs inadulthood
mayhavebeneficial outcomes for youngpeoplewhohave
experienceddistressing, psychotic-likeexperiences.
“Our study found that negative schemas inchildhoodare
associatedwithpsychotic-likeexperiences inchildrenand
that schema-changework is an important therapeutic focus,”
saysDr Laurens. “Such interventions includeconsidering
how thenegativebeliefs arose, how theyaremaintained,
their influenceonday-to-day functioningand thebenefits
of changing the incorrect beliefs.”
Anassociated studyhas also found that thesenegativebeliefs
about self andothers influencehow theexperienceof being
bullied impactsonchildren’spsychotic-likeexperiences.
“Ifwe interveneearly, wecan teach thesechildrenways to
reduce their negativebeliefs andbuild thekindof resilience
thatwill help thembetter dealwithvictimisationexperiences
likebullying,” saysDr Laurens. “Creating resilience is agreat
way toprotect the futuremental healthof our children.”
Negative schemas, or self definition, areassociated
withpsychotic-likeexperiences in children
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