Psychotic experiences in a mental health clinic sample: implications for suicidality, multimorbidity and functioning

I. Kelleher*, N. Devlin, J. T. W. Wigman, A. Kehoe, A. Murtagh, C. Fitzpatrick, M. Cannon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Recent community-based research has suggested that psychotic experiences act as markers of severity of psychopathology. There has, however, been a lack of clinic-based research. We wished to investigate, in a clinical sample of adolescents referred to a state-funded mental health service, the prevalence of (attenuated or frank) psychotic experiences and the relationship with (i) affective, anxiety and behavioural disorders, (ii) multimorbid psychopathology, (iii) global functioning, and (iv) suicidal behaviour. Method The investigation was a clinical case-clinical control study using semi-structured research diagnostic psychiatric assessments in 108 patients newly referred to state adolescent mental health services. Results Psychotic experiences were prevalent in a wide range of (non-psychotic) disorders but were strong markers of risk in particular for multimorbid psychopathology (Z=3.44, p=0.001). Young people with psychopathology who reported psychotic experiences demonstrated significantly poorer socio-occupational functioning than young people with psychopathology who did not report psychotic experiences, which was not explained by multimorbidity. Psychotic experiences were strong markers of risk for suicidal behaviour. Stratified analyses showed that there was a greatly increased odds of suicide attempts in patients with a major depressive disorder [odds ratio (OR) 8.89, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.59-49.83], anxiety disorder (OR 15.4, 95% CI 1.85-127.94) or behavioural disorder (OR 3.13, 95% CI 1.11-8.79) who also had psychotic experiences compared with patients who did not report psychotic experiences. Conclusions Psychotic experiences (attenuated or frank) are an important but under-recognized marker of risk for severe psychopathology, including multimorbidity, poor functioning and suicidal behaviour in young people who present to mental health services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1615-1624
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • Child and adolescent psychiatry
  • multimorbidity
  • psychosis
  • psychotic experiences
  • suicide


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