The Relationship Between Felt Presence and Psychosis-Proneness
Felt presence (FP) is the perception that somebody (or something) is nearby without corresponding sensory stimuli. This phenomenon is relatively common within the general population. However, it is under-researched and mostly appears in publications as case reports. Additionally, FP has not extensively been studied in relation to schizophrenia-spectrum despite anomalous bodily self-experiences being central to this disorder. In order to address this gap, we conducted an online survey of the general population (N = 202) about their possible FP experiences using a previously validated scale for FP (Barnby & Bell, 2017), with the addition of 25 qualitative questions regarding these experiences. In addition, we examined FP in relation to psychosis risk by administering the Prodromal-Questionnaire-16 (Ising et al., 2012). In study 2, we conducted a qualitative study with individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia regarding their FP experiences. Results from Study 1 demonstrate that FP is more common in a psychosis-prone, prodromal population than those at low-risk for schizophrenia. Additionally, some characteristics of FP differed between these two groups. The psychosis-prone group tended to experience FP touch them. In addition, the two groups differed in their perception of time while experiencing FP. However, location of FP did not differ between groups. Interviews with the three patients in Study 2 showed that the presentation of FP is incredibly varied both between and within patients, regarding general emotion accompanying FP, duration, and form. In conclusion, FP is accompanied by a wide variation of sensations, perceptions, and understandings. Given the increased presence of FP in those at risk for psychosis, it might be a candidate marker for schizophrenia.