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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.
DSM-5 proposes an Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome (APS) for further investigation, based upon the Attenuated Positive Symptom Syndrome (APSS) in the Structured Interview for Psychosis-Risk Syndromes (SIPS). SIPS Unusual Thought Content, Disorganized Communication and Total Disorganization scores predicted progression to psychosis in a 2015 NAPLS-2 Consortium report. We sought to independently replicate this in a large single-site high-risk cohort, and identify baseline demographic and clinical predictors beyond current APS/APSS criteria.
We prospectively studied 200 participants meeting criteria for both the SIPS APSS and DSM-5 APS. SIPS scores, demographics, family history of psychosis, DSM Axis-I diagnoses, schizotypy, and social and role functioning were assessed at baseline, with follow-up every 3 months for 2 years.
The conversion rate was 30% (n = 60), or 37.7% excluding participants who were followed under 2 years. This rate was stable across time. Conversion time averaged 7.97 months for 60% who developed schizophrenia and 15.68 for other psychoses. Mean conversion age was 20.3 for males and 23.5 for females. Attenuated odd ideas and thought disorder appear to be the positive symptoms which best predict psychosis in a logistic regression. Total negative symptom score, Asian/Pacific Islander and Black/African-American race were also predictive. As no Axis-I diagnosis or schizotypy predicted conversion, the APS is supported as a distinct syndrome. In addition, cannabis use disorder did not increase risk of conversion to psychosis.
NAPLS SIPS findings were replicated while controlling for clinical and demographic factors, strongly supporting the validity of the SIPS APSS and DSM-5 APS diagnosis.
Increased sensitivity and exposure to stress are associated with psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia and its risk states, but little is known about the co-evolution of stress sensitivity and exposure with positive and other symptoms in a clinical high-risk (CHR) cohort.
A combined cross-sectional and longitudinal design was used to examine the associations over time of stress sensitivity and exposure (i.e. life events) with ‘prodromal’ symptoms in a cohort of 65 CHR patients assessed quarterly for up to 4 years, and at baseline in 24 healthy controls similar in age and gender.
Impaired stress tolerance was greater in patients, in whom it was associated over time with positive and negative symptoms, in addition to depression, anxiety and poor function. By contrast, life events were comparable in patients and controls, and bore no association with symptoms. In this treated cohort, there was a trajectory of improvement in stress tolerance, symptoms and function over time.
Impaired stress tolerance was associated with a wide range of ‘prodromal’ symptoms, consistent with it being a core feature of the psychosis risk state. Self-reported life events were not relevant as a correlate of clinical status. As in other treated CHR cohorts, most patients improved over time across symptom domains.
Social dysfunction is a hallmark symptom of schizophrenia which commonly precedes the onset of psychosis. It is unclear if social symptoms in clinical high-risk patients reflect depressive symptoms or are a manifestation of negative symptoms.
We compared social function scores on the Social Adjustment Scale-Self Report between 56 young people (aged 13–27 years) at clinical high risk for psychosis and 22 healthy controls. The cases were also assessed for depressive and ‘prodromal’ symptoms (subthreshold positive, negative, disorganized and general symptoms).
Poor social function was related to both depressive and negative symptoms, as well as to disorganized and general symptoms. The symptoms were highly intercorrelated but linear regression analysis demonstrated that poor social function was primarily explained by negative symptoms within this cohort, particularly in ethnic minority patients.
Although this study demonstrated a relationship between social dysfunction and depressive symptoms in clinical high-risk cases, this association was primarily explained by the relationship of each of these to negative symptoms. In individuals at heightened risk for psychosis, affective changes may be related to a progressive decrease in social interaction and loss of reinforcement of social behaviors. These findings have relevance for potential treatment strategies for social dysfunction in schizophrenia and its risk states and predict that antidepressant drugs, cognitive behavioral therapy and/or social skills training may be effective.
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