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Disturbances in trait emotions are a predominant feature in schizophrenia. However, less is known about (a) differences in trait emotion across phases of the illness such as the clinical high-risk (CHR) phase and (b) whether abnormalities in trait emotion that are associated with negative symptoms are driven by primary (i.e. idiopathic) or secondary (e.g. depression, anxiety) factors.
To examine profiles of trait affective disturbance and their clinical correlates in individuals with schizophrenia and individuals at CHR for psychosis.
In two studies (sample 1: 56 out-patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and 34 demographically matched individuals without schizophrenia (controls); sample 2: 50 individuals at CHR and 56 individuals not at CHR (controls)), participants completed self-report trait positive affect and negative affect questionnaires, clinical symptom interviews (positive, negative, disorganised, depression, anxiety) and community-based functional outcome measures.
Both clinical groups reported lower levels of positive affect (specific to joy among individuals with schizophrenia) and higher levels of negative affect compared with controls. For individuals with schizophrenia, links were found between positive affect and negative symptoms (which remained after controlling for secondary factors) and between negative affect and positive symptoms. For individuals at CHR, links were found between both affect dimensions and both types of symptom (which were largely accounted for by secondary factors).
Both clinical groups showed some evidence of reduced trait positive affect and elevated trait negative affect, suggesting that increasing trait positive affect and reducing trait negative affect is an important treatment goal across both populations. Clinical correlates of these emotional abnormalities were more integrally linked to clinical symptoms in individuals with schizophrenia and more closely linked to secondary influences such as depression and anxiety in individuals at CHR.
Declaration of interest
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