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It has been suggested that the structure of psychopathology is best described as a complex network of components that interact in dynamic ways. The goal of the present paper was to examine the concept of psychopathology from a network perspective, combining complementary top-down and bottom-up approaches using momentary assessment techniques.
A pooled Experience Sampling Method (ESM) dataset of three groups (individuals with a diagnosis of depression, psychotic disorder or no diagnosis) was used (pooled N = 599). The top-down approach explored the network structure of mental states across different diagnostic categories. For this purpose, networks of five momentary mental states (‘cheerful’, ‘content’, ‘down’, ‘insecure’ and ‘suspicious’) were compared between the three groups. The complementary bottom-up approach used principal component analysis to explore whether empirically derived network structures yield meaningful higher order clusters.
Individuals with a clinical diagnosis had more strongly connected moment-to-moment network structures, especially the depressed group. This group also showed more interconnections specifically between positive and negative mental states than the psychotic group. In the bottom-up approach, all possible connections between mental states were clustered into seven main components that together captured the main characteristics of the network dynamics.
Our combination of (i) comparing network structure of mental states across three diagnostically different groups and (ii) searching for trans-diagnostic network components across all pooled individuals showed that these two approaches yield different, complementary perspectives in the field of psychopathology. The network paradigm therefore may be useful to map transdiagnostic processes.
Recent community-based research has suggested that psychotic experiences act as markers of severity of psychopathology. There has, however, been a lack of clinic-based research. We wished to investigate, in a clinical sample of adolescents referred to a state-funded mental health service, the prevalence of (attenuated or frank) psychotic experiences and the relationship with (i) affective, anxiety and behavioural disorders, (ii) multimorbid psychopathology, (iii) global functioning, and (iv) suicidal behaviour.
The investigation was a clinical case–clinical control study using semi-structured research diagnostic psychiatric assessments in 108 patients newly referred to state adolescent mental health services.
Psychotic experiences were prevalent in a wide range of (non-psychotic) disorders but were strong markers of risk in particular for multimorbid psychopathology (Z = 3.44, p = 0.001). Young people with psychopathology who reported psychotic experiences demonstrated significantly poorer socio-occupational functioning than young people with psychopathology who did not report psychotic experiences, which was not explained by multimorbidity. Psychotic experiences were strong markers of risk for suicidal behaviour. Stratified analyses showed that there was a greatly increased odds of suicide attempts in patients with a major depressive disorder [odds ratio (OR) 8.89, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.59–49.83], anxiety disorder (OR 15.4, 95% CI 1.85–127.94) or behavioural disorder (OR 3.13, 95% CI 1.11–8.79) who also had psychotic experiences compared with patients who did not report psychotic experiences.
Psychotic experiences (attenuated or frank) are an important but under-recognized marker of risk for severe psychopathology, including multimorbidity, poor functioning and suicidal behaviour in young people who present to mental health services.
Subthreshold psychotic and bipolar experiences are common in major depressive disorder (MDD). However, it is unknown if effectiveness of psychotherapy is altered in depressed patients who display such features compared with those without. The current paper aimed to investigate the impact of the co-presence of subclinical psychotic experiences and subclinical bipolar symptoms on the effectiveness of psychological treatment, alone or in combination with pharmacotherapy.
In a naturalistic study, patients with MDD (n = 116) received psychological treatment (cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal psychotherapy) alone or in combination with pharmacotherapy. Depression and functioning were assessed six times over 2 years. Lifetime psychotic experiences and bipolar symptoms were assessed at the second time point.
Subclinical psychotic experiences predicted more depression over time (β = 0.20, p < 0.002), non-remission [odds ratio (OR) 7.51, p < 0.016] and relapse (OR 3.85, p < 0.034). Subthreshold bipolar symptoms predicted relapse (OR 1.16, p < 0.037).
In general, subclinical psychotic experiences have a negative impact on the course and outcome of psychotherapy in MDD. Effects of subclinical bipolar experiences were less prominent.
Subclinical psychotic experiences during adolescence may represent liability for developing psychotic disorder. Both coping style and the degree of persistence of psychotic experiences may play a role in the progression to clinical psychotic disorder, but little is known about the causal relationship between the two.
Path modelling was used to examine longitudinal relationships between subclinical positive psychotic experiences and three styles of coping (task-, emotion- and avoidance-oriented) in an adolescent general population sample (n=813) assessed three times in 3 years. Distinct developmental trajectories of psychotic experiences, identified with growth mixture modelling, were compared on the use of these coping styles.
Over time, emotion-oriented coping in general was bi-directionally related to psychotic experiences. No meaningful results were found for task- or avoidance-oriented coping. Females reported using a wider range of coping styles than males, but the paths between coping and psychotic experiences did not differ by gender. Persistence of psychotic experiences was associated with a greater use of emotion-oriented coping, whereas a decrease in experiences over time was associated with an increased use of task-orientated coping.
Emotion-oriented coping is the most important coping style in relation to psychotic experiences, as it may contribute to a ‘vicious cycle’ and is associated with persistence of experiences. In addition, more task-oriented coping may result in a decrease in psychotic experiences. Results suggest that opportunities for intervention may already be present at the level of subclinical psychosis.
Research suggests that subclinical psychotic experiences during adolescence represent the behavioral expression of liability for psychosis. Little is known, however, about the longitudinal trajectory of liability in general population samples.
Growth mixture modeling was used to examine longitudinal trajectories of self-reported positive psychotic experiences in the Youth Self Report (YSR), completed three times over a period of 6 years by a general population cohort of adolescents aged 10–11 years at baseline (n=2230).
Four groups with distinct developmental trajectories of low, decreasing, increasing and persistent levels of mild positive psychotic experiences were revealed. The persistent trajectory was associated strongly with cannabis use, childhood trauma, developmental problems and ethnic minority status, and consistently displayed strong associations with factors known to predict transition from subclinical psychotic experience to clinical psychotic disorder (severity of and secondary distress due to psychotic experiences, social and attentional problems and affective dysregulation) and also with high levels of parental-reported psychotic experiences and use of mental health care at the end of the follow-up period. Progressively weaker associations were found for the increasing, decreasing and low trajectories respectively.
The results suggest that the outcome of early developmental deviation associated with later expression of psychotic experiences is contingent on the degree of later interaction with environmental risks inducing, first, persistence of psychotic experiences and, second, progression to onset of need for care and service use. Insight into the longitudinal dynamics of risk states in representative samples may contribute to the development of targeted early intervention in psychosis.
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