Experiencing psychosis can be associated with changes in how people see themselves as individuals and in relation to others (ie, changes in their identity). However, identity changes receive little attention in treatment, possibly due to a lack of clarity or consensus around what identity change means in people with psychosis. We aimed to create a conceptual framework synthesizing how identity changes are understood in the psychosis literature.
Electronic databases were searched up to April 2020. Studies about identity changes among people with psychotic disorders were analyzed using narrative synthesis by a collaborative review team, including researchers from different disciplines, clinicians, and people who have experienced psychosis.
Of 10 389 studies screened, 59 were eligible. Identity changes are understood in 5 ways as (1) characteristics of psychosis, (2) consequences of altered cognitive functioning, (3) consequences of internalized stigma, (4) consequences of lost roles and relationships, and (5) reflections of personal growth. These 5 understandings are not mutually exclusive. Across a heterogeneous literature, identity changes were mostly framed in terms of loss.
Our conceptual framework, comprising 5 understandings, highlights the complexity of studying identity changes and suggests important implications for practice and research. For clinicians, this framework can inform new therapeutic approaches where the experience and impact of identity changes are acknowledged and addressed as part of treatment. For researchers, the conceptual framework offers a way of locating their understandings of identity changes when undertaking research in this area.