Phenomenological characteristics and explanations of unusual perceptual experiences, thoughts and beliefs in a population sample of early adolescents
Objectives: Often referred to as psychotic experiences, unusual perceptual experiences, thoughts and beliefs (UPTBs) are not uncommon in youth populations. Phenomenological studies of these experiences are lacking. This study aimed to (1) describe the phenomenological characteristics of UPTBs in a sample of young adolescents and (2) explore how young people made sense of those experiences.
Methods: Participants were 53 young people aged 11-13 years from a population-based study of mental health. All met criteria for UPTBs following clinical interviews as part of the study. Documentary data on UPTBs in the form of transcribed notes, recorded during clinical interviews, were analysed using content analysis. Data on UPTBs were coded, organised into categorical themes and quantified using descriptive statistics. Qualitative themes on how participants made sense of their experiences were identified.
Results: Participants reported UPTBs across four domains: auditory verbal, auditory non-verbal, non-auditory perceptual experiences and unusual thoughts and beliefs. UPTBs were phenomenologically rich and diverse. Young people sought to make sense of their experiences in multiple ways: normalising them, externalising them by attributing them to paranormal entities and distancing them from psychiatric explanations. Uncertainty about the source of UPTBs was identified as a superordinate theme.Conclusion: Findings from this study offer new insights into the phenomenological qualities and characteristics of UPTBs in young adolescents. They also reveal that early adolescents may not make sense of their experiences within a psychiatric framework. These findings highlight the need to develop a more phenomenologically sensitive and nuanced approach to studying UPTBs in young people..
Health Research Board (HPF-2015-974), (RA-2015), (HRA-2015), (EIA-2017)
European Research Council (grant number 724809)
CommentsThe original article is available at https://www.cambridge.org/
Published CitationCoughlan H. et al. Phenomenological characteristics and explanations of unusual perceptual experiences, thoughts and beliefs in a population sample of early adolescents. Ir J Psychol Med. 2020:1-12
Publication Date27 May 2020
- Beaumont Hospital
- Health Psychology
- Population Health and Health Services
- Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
- Published Version (Version of Record)