Feeling de-humanised by distressing psychotic voices: Developing our understanding and psychological therapy

John Grace QC PhD Scholarship 2021 - Bath University

Supervisors: Professor Paul Chadwick & Dr. Pamela Jacobsen

Lay Summary:

Hearing voices, also called auditory hallucinations, is a common experience for people with mental health difficulties such as psychosis, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar depression, and severe depression.  Some people who hear voices have reported that one of the most upsetting things about the experience, is the feeling that it sets them apart from other people in some way, and makes them less than ‘human’.  This experience of ‘de-humanisation’ has been little explored in psychosis so far, but may be crucial in understanding how to reduce distress and increase quality of life for people affected by it.  Our proposal is for a study which would first map out what we know about de-humanisation already, both in psychosis and in other health conditions.  We would do this by searching thoroughly through the existing published literature, using a transparent and replicable method known as a systematic review.  The next stage of the study would be a qualitative study of the experience of de-humanisation in people with a diagnosis of psychosis, or schizophrenia, who hear voices.  This would involve individual, in-depth, interviews with participants, which would be audio-taped and transcribed for analysis.  We would involve people with lived experience of hearing voices in the design and planning of the qualitative study, including designing the list of questions to be asked during the interviews.  The final stage of the study would be developing and trying out a group-based therapy which would be designed to help reduce feelings of de-humanisation for people who hear voices.

Aims: To develop a psychological model of the process of feeling dehumanised by distressing voices, and to pilot a psychological therapy which targets key processes that underlie and maintain dehumanisation in voice-hearing.