Psychotherapy Services in South West London

Psychosis and personality traits

The psychological tendencies responsible for the symptoms of psychosis are not the prerogative of the clinically psychotic. On the contrary they are a natural feature of the human condition, present in everyone to a greater or lesser degree. Just as people differ in extraversion, intelligence and prone to anxiety so, too, do they differ in the extent to which they show psychotic characteristics. Such traits are widely distributed in the general population and, as considerable research over the past decade has shown, are easily measurable with questionnaires. These questionnaires have demonstrated that schizotypal personality traits are frequently found in psychologically healthy individuals. When asked systematically about it, many perfectly normal people freely admit to having had mild symptoms reminiscent or schizophrenia, such as hallucinatory experiences and other sensory illusion, inexplicable mood change, feelings of unreality, strong telepathic thoughts bordering on the sense of being influenced from a distance, and distorted thinking of almost delusional quality. Take anxiety as an example. As a personality trait, this is a universal characteristic, necessary not just for survival but also, at moderate levels, for motivating optimum performance on many everyday tasks. Yet exactly the same trait, if too high, can disrupt and disable, in some cases bringing about the symptoms of anxiety neurosis. Some physical illnesses, known as systemic disorders, also have a similar quality. Thus, very high blood pressure can become established as a pathological state – essential hypertension – which can help to precipitate strokes or heart attacks. However, its performing adaptive function blood pressure is merely  natural physiological trait, though one that can vary over a wide range even in healthy individuals. In all of these cases – anxiety, blood pressure or psychotic temperament – the underlying trait, as well as describing differences between people, also acts as a disposition to the appropriate dysfunction to which it contributes. So called psychotic disease can therefore best be seen as a normal healthy characteristic gone wrong.

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