Trauma exposure, PTSD and psychotic-like symptoms in post-conflict Timor Leste: an epidemiological survey.
BACKGROUND: Studies in developed countries indicate that psychotic-like symptoms are prevalent in the community and are related to trauma exposure and PTSD. No comparable studies have been undertaken in low-income, post-conflict countries. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of psychotic-like symptoms in conflict-affected Timor Leste and to examine whether symptoms were associated with trauma and PTSD. METHODS: The Psychosis Screening Questionnaire and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (assessing trauma exposure and PTSD) were administered in an epidemiological survey of 1245 adults (response rate 80.6%) in a rural and an urban setting in Timor Leste. We defined PSQ screen-positive cases as those people reporting at least one psychotic-like symptom (paranoia, hallucinations, strange experiences, thought interference, hypomania). RESULTS: The prevalence of PSQ screen-positive cases was 12 percent and these persons were more disabled. PSQ cases were more likely to reside in the urban area, experienced higher levels of trauma exposure and a greater prevalence of PTSD. PTSD only partially mediated the relationship between trauma exposure and psychotic-like symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Psychotic-like symptoms may be prevalent in countries exposed to mass conflict. The cultural and contextual meaning of psychotic-like symptoms requires further inquiry in low-income, post-conflict settings such as Timor Leste.