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Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSDs), although conceptualized as separate entities, may share some clinical and neurobiological features. ASD symptoms may have a relevant role in determining a more severe clinical presentation of schizophrenic disorder but their relationships with cognitive aspects and functional outcomes of the disease remain to be addressed in large samples of individuals.
To investigate the clinical, cognitive, and functional correlates of ASD symptoms in a large sample of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The severity of ASD symptoms was measured with the PANSS Autism Severity Scale (PAUSS) in 921 individuals recruited for the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses multicenter study. Based on the PAUSS scores, three groups of subjects were compared on a wide array of cognitive and functional measures.
Subjects with more severe ASD symptoms showed a poorer performance in the processing speed (p = 0.010), attention (p = 0.011), verbal memory (p = 0.035), and social cognition (p = 0.001) domains, and an overall lower global cognitive composite score (p = 0.010). Subjects with more severe ASD symptoms also showed poorer functional capacity (p = 0.004), real-world interpersonal relationships (p < 0.001), and participation in community-living activities (p < 0.001).
These findings strengthen the notion that ASD symptoms may have a relevant impact on different aspects of the disease, crucial to the life of people with schizophrenia. Prominent ASD symptoms may characterize a specific subpopulation of individuals with SSD.
Patients with schizophrenia display experiential anomalies in their feelings and cognitions arising in the domain of their lived body. These abnormal bodily phenomena (ABP) are not part of diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia. One of the reasons is the difficulty to assess specific ABP for schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The present study aimed to explore the presence in patients with schizophrenia of specific ABP.
We used a semistructured interview—the Abnormal Bodily Phenomena questionnaire (ABPq), an instrument devised to detect and measure ABP specific to patients with schizophrenia. Fifty-one outpatients affected by schizophrenia and 28 euthymic outpatients affected by bipolar disorder type I with psychotic features (BD-pf-e) were recruited. Before assessing the specificity for schizophrenia of the observed ABP, we tested the internal consistency and the convergent validity of the ABPq in patients with schizophrenia. Specificity was assessed by examining potential differences in ABPq among the patients with schizophrenia in remission (SCZ-r) and BD-pf-e.
The ABPq shows strong internal consistency and convergent validity. As to the specificity, ABP measured by ABPq were more frequent and severe in SCZ-r than in BD-pf-e. In particular, all ABPq dimensions, except “Coherence,” had at least mild severity in over 50% of SCZ-r, while dimensions with at least mild severity were observed in 5–10% of the BD-pf-e.
These findings can contribute to establish more precise phenomenal boundaries between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, to explore the borders between nonpsychotic and psychotic forms of ABP, between ABP and negative and disorganized symptoms, and to enlighten core aspects of schizophrenia.
Greater levels of insight may be linked with depressive symptoms among patients with schizophrenia, however, it would be useful to characterize this association at symptom-level, in order to inform research on interventions.
Data on depressive symptoms (Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia) and insight (G12 item from the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale) were obtained from 921 community-dwelling, clinically-stable individuals with a DSM-IV diagnosis of schizophrenia, recruited in a nationwide multicenter study. Network analysis was used to explore the most relevant connections between insight and depressive symptoms, including potential confounders in the model (neurocognitive and social-cognitive functioning, positive, negative and disorganization symptoms, extrapyramidal symptoms, hostility, internalized stigma, and perceived discrimination). Bayesian network analysis was used to estimate a directed acyclic graph (DAG) while investigating the most likely direction of the putative causal association between insight and depression.
After adjusting for confounders, better levels of insight were associated with greater self-depreciation, pathological guilt, morning depression and suicidal ideation. No difference in global network structure was detected for socioeconomic status, service engagement or illness severity. The DAG confirmed the presence of an association between greater insight and self-depreciation, suggesting the more probable causal direction was from insight to depressive symptoms.
In schizophrenia, better levels of insight may cause self-depreciation and, possibly, other depressive symptoms. Person-centered and narrative psychotherapeutic approaches may be particularly fit to improve patient insight without dampening self-esteem.