How A New Therapy Helps People with Delusions Feel Safe Again

“”I don’t have to worry any more about people potentially attacking me. That’s all floated away.””

This article has been written by Shayla Love and published in Vice magazine. It begins:

“Six months into experiencing psychosis, Susan Weiner woke up from a nightmare with a disturbing realization: An evil dictator had gained access to her unconscious, and was going to make her a serial killer. As she wrote in Schizophrenia’s Bulletin’s First Person Account series, ‘By this time, there were implants activated in my teeth and I believed that DNA was being extracted through my eyes. I could no longer feel the sensation of love. I only remembered that I had felt love before. Thus, 3 weeks later, when I tried to electrocute myself, I was teetering on the edge. As I reasoned, it was better to be dead than to be Ted Bundy.’

Weiner recounted how much of her day-to-day life became consumed with beliefs that she was being watched, her phone was being tapped, or that her friends were spies for the CIA. These are all examples of persecutory delusions, an immensely difficult and frightening symptom of psychosis and conditions like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder involving the conviction that others are out to harm you in some way. During a first episode of psychosis, over 70% of people have a persecutory delusion.

Despite being common for psychosis, persecutory delusions are very hard to treat. People can be given antipsychotic medications, but two-thirds of them won’t have their symptoms reduced even by half. Psychological therapies, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for psychosis can be helpful—but not by a lot. When CBT is given to people who haven’t responded to medication, only 10% have their symptoms cut in half. 

That’s why the results of a randomized trial of a new cognitive-behavioral treatment for people with psychosis, called the Feeling Safe program, has garnered some excitement. The people in the trial had persecutory delusions for at least three months, and held those delusions with at least a 60% conviction. By the end of the trial, 50% of the people had no delusions, and another 25% made moderate improvements, making Feeling Safe the most effective psychological treatment for persecutory delusions. The study was published in The Lancet Psychiatry earlier this month …”

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  1. Pingback: Persecutory delusions, engine idling and taxi driver brains – A New Vision for Mental Health

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