Relationships between trauma types and psychotic symptoms: A network analysis of patients with psychotic disorders in a large, multi-country study in East Africa

Anne Stevenson, Supriya Misra, Engida Girma, Adela Maria Isvoranu, Dickens Akena, Melkam Alemayehu, Lukoye Atwoli, Bizu Gelaye, Stella Gichuru, Symon M. Kariuki, Edith Kamaru Kwobah, Joseph Kyebuzibwa, Rehema M. Mwema, Carter P. Newman, Charles R.J.C. Newton, Linnet Ongeri, Rocky E. Stroud, Solomon Teferra, Karestan C. Koenen, Soraya Seedat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The link between trauma exposure and psychotic disorders is well-established. Further, specific types of trauma may be associated with specific psychotic symptoms. Network analysis is an approach that can advance our understanding of the associations across trauma types and psychotic symptoms. Methods: We conducted a network analysis with data from 16,628 adult participants (mean age [standard deviation] = 36.3 years [11.5]; 55.8% males) with psychotic disorders in East Africa recruited between 2018 and 2023. We used the Life Events Checklist and the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview to determine whether specific trauma types experienced over the life course and specific psychotic symptoms were connected. We used an Ising model to estimate the network connections and bridge centrality statistics to identify nodes that may influence trauma types and psychotic symptoms. Results: The trauma type “exposure to a war zone” had the highest bridge strength, betweenness, and closeness. The psychotic symptom “odd or unusual beliefs” had the second highest bridge strength. Exposure to a war zone was directly connected to visual hallucinations, odd or unusual beliefs, passivity phenomena, and disorganized speech. Odd or unusual beliefs were directly connected to transportation accidents, physical assault, war, and witnessing sudden accidental death. Conclusion: Specific trauma types and psychotic symptoms may interact bidirectionally. Screening for psychotic symptoms in patients with war-related trauma and evaluating lifetime trauma in patients with odd or unusual beliefs in clinical care may be considered points of intervention to limit stimulating additional psychotic symptoms and trauma exposure. This work reaffirms the importance of trauma-informed care for patients with psychotic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152504
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2024


  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Network analysis
  • Psychosis
  • Trauma
  • Uganda


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