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Unusual Perceptual Experiences, Thought and Beliefs and the Lives of Young People who Report them: A Mixed Methods Study

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posted on 14.02.2022, 14:39 authored by Helen CoughlanHelen Coughlan

This PhD study is about unusual perceptual experiences, thoughts and beliefs (UPTBs) and the lives of young people who report them. In this PhD, UPTBs refer to hallucinatory and delusion-like experiences that occur in the absence of a psychotic disorder.

UPTBs are not uncommon in youth populations. For most young people, they are transient experiences. Young people who report UPTBs are more likely to experience psychopathology. They are also more likely to have experienced childhood trauma and adversity. However, little is known about the phenomenology of UPTBs in young people or the dynamic interrelationships between the early life experiences and later outcomes of young people who report them.

This PhD aimed to explore the phenomenology of UPTBs in young people and how young make sense of these experiences. It also aimed to explore the relationships between young people’s early life experiences, their experiences of UPTBs and their emotional and mental health.

Findings from this PhD have revealed the phenomenologically diversity of UPTBs and the different meanings they have in young people’s lives. Although this PhD confirms an association between UPTBs and emotional and mental health difficulties, it also demonstrated that not all UPTBs are pathological in nature.

Findings from this have also shown that there is a dynamic and synergistic relationship between young people’s early life experiences, their attachment relationships, their emotional and mental health, their experiences of UPTBs and their satisfaction with life. The type and timing of early adversity and the quality of early attachment relationships were identified as key factors in understanding young people’s mental health outcomes and their related UPTB experiences.

Qualitative data also explored young people’s subjective experiences of emotional and mental health issues. These were translated into a series of themed animations and hosted on an online youth health platform for young people aged 16-25 years, where they have been viewed over 15,000 times.

This PhD has advanced the field of UPTB research by providing new insights into the phenomenology of UPTBs and the synergistic relationships between young people’s early life experiences, their mental health and their UPTB experiences. It has also demonstrated the value of mixed methods research and differing knowledge transfer approaches.


Funding

An investigation into Early Adverse Life Events and Psychotic-Like Experiences in Irish youth

Health Research Board

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The Youth Mental Health Animation Creation Project

Health Research Board

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History

First Supervisor

Prof. Mary Cannon

Second Supervisor

Dr Niamh Humphries

Third Supervisor

Dr Mary Clarke

Comments

Submitted for the Award of Doctor of Philosophy to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 2020

Published Citation

Coughlan H,. Unusual Perceptual Experiences, Thought and Beliefs and the Lives of Young People who Report them: A Mixed Methods Study [PhD Thesis] Dublin: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; 2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Date of award

30/11/2020

Programme

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Research Area

  • Population Health and Health Services
  • Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders