Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVE: Acting on delusions is a significant clinical issue. The concept of safety behaviours--actions carried out with the intention of reducing perceived threat--provides a new way of understanding acting on delusions. A study was conducted with the aim of examining the prevalence and correlates of safety behaviours related to persecutory delusions. METHOD: One hundred patients with persecutory delusions were assessed for safety behaviours, acting on delusions, anxiety, depression, and psychotic symptoms. Case note data were collected on instances of serious violence or suicide attempts. RESULTS: Ninety-six patients had used safety behaviours in the last month. Greater use of safety behaviours was associated with higher levels of distress. A history of violence or suicide attempts was associated with greater use of safety behaviours. Safety behaviours were significantly associated with acting on delusions, but not with the negative symptoms of psychosis. CONCLUSION: Safety behaviours are a common form of acting on persecutory delusions. These behaviours have the consequence that they are likely to prevent the processing of disconfirmatory evidence and will therefore contribute to delusion persistence.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





89 - 99


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Avoidance Learning, Cohort Studies, Defense Mechanisms, Delusions, Escape Reaction, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Psychotic Disorders, Safety, Schizophrenic Psychology