Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Psychosis Seldom Leads to Violent Acts, Study Finds

Contrary to the common belief that mental illness is associated with violence, hallucinations and delusions associated with psychiatric disorders seldom foreshadow acts of aggression, according to findings published in Clinical Psychological Science.

For the study, Jennifer Skeem, a clinical psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues examined data from the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study—a project that tracked the prevalence of community violence in a sample of more than 1,100 men and women during the year following their discharge from acute psychiatric facilities—to identify 100 former inpatients who had been involved in two or more violent incidents. In addition to reviewing the patient records, the authors conducted interviews with the former inpatients and family members and friends to assess the factors that preceded their violent acts (defined as battery resulting in physical injury, sexual assault, and assaults or threats with a weapon).

The authors concluded that psychosis immediately preceded 12 percent of violent incidents following the release from psychiatric facilities. Additionally, the authors found that individuals with exclusively “non-psychosis-preceded” violence could be distinguished from a small group who also had some psychosis-preceded violence.

"High-profile mass shootings capture public attention and increase vigilance of people with mental illness," Skeem stated in a press release. "These findings suggest that psychosis sometimes foreshadows violence for a fraction of high-risk individuals, but violence prevention efforts should also target factors like anger and social deviance."

For more on violence and mental illness, see the Psychiatric News article “Capitol Hill Gets Straight Story on Gun Violence, Mental Illness.” Also, see a related article in Psychiatric Services, "Applicability of the Risk-Need-Responsivity Model to Persons With Mental Illness Involved in the Criminal Justice System."

(Image: Sascha Burkard/


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.