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Shifts in positive and negative psychotic symptoms and anger: effects on violence

  • Jeremy W. Coid (a1), Constantinos Kallis (a1), Mike Doyle (a2), Jenny Shaw (a2) and Simone Ullrich (a1)...



Changes in positive and negative symptom profiles during acute psychotic episodes may be key drivers in the pathway to violence. Acute episodes are often preceded by fluctuations in affect before psychotic symptoms appear and affective symptoms may play a more important role in the pathway than previously recognised.


We carried out a prospective cohort study of 409 male and female patients discharged from medium secure services in England and Wales to the community. Measures were taken at baseline (pre-discharge), 6 and 12 months post-discharge using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. Information on violence was obtained using the McArthur Community Violence Instrument and Police National Computer.


The larger the shift in positive symptoms the more likely violence occurred in each 6-month period. However, shifts in angry affect were the main driving factor for positive symptom shifts associated with violence. Shifts in negative symptoms co-occurred with positive and conveyed protective effects, but these were overcome by co-occurring shifts in anger. Severe but stable delusions were independently associated with violence.


Intensification of angry affect during acute episodes of psychosis indicates the need for interventions to prevent violence and is a key driver of associated positive symptoms in the pathway to violence. Protective effects against violence exerted by negative symptoms are not clinically observable during symptom shifts because they are overcome by co-occurring anger.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Simone Ullrich, E-mail:


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