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Agoraphobic avoidance of everyday situations is a common feature in many mental health disorders. Avoidance can be due to a variety of fears, including concerns about negative social evaluation, panicking, and harm from others. The result is inactivity and isolation. Behavioural avoidance tasks (BATs) provide an objective assessment of avoidance and in situ anxiety but are challenging to administer and lack standardisation. Our aim was to draw on the principles of BATs to develop a self-report measure of agoraphobia symptoms.
The scale was developed with 194 patients with agoraphobia in the context of psychosis, 427 individuals in the general population with high levels of agoraphobia, and 1094 individuals with low levels of agoraphobia. Factor analysis, item response theory, and receiver operating characteristic analyses were used. Validity was assessed against a BAT, actigraphy data, and an existing agoraphobia measure. Test–retest reliability was assessed with 264 participants.
An eight-item questionnaire with avoidance and distress response scales was developed. The avoidance and distress scales each had an excellent model fit and reliably assessed agoraphobic symptoms across the severity spectrum. All items were highly discriminative (avoidance: a = 1.24–5.43; distress: a = 1.60–5.48), indicating that small increases in agoraphobic symptoms led to a high probability of item endorsement. The scale demonstrated good internal reliability, test–retest reliability, and validity.
The Oxford Agoraphobic Avoidance Scale has excellent psychometric properties. Clinical cut-offs and score ranges are provided. This precise assessment tool may help focus attention on the clinically important problem of agoraphobic avoidance.
Catastrophic cognitive appraisals, similar to those in anxiety disorders, are implicated in depersonalisation, a form of dissociation. No scales exist to measure appraisals of dissociative experiences. Dissociation is common in psychosis. Misinterpretations of dissociative experiences may maintain psychotic symptoms. Therefore, assessing appraisals in this context may be valuable.
The primary aim was to develop a measure of key appraisals of dissociation in psychosis. Secondary aims were to test the relationship between appraisals and psychotic experiences (paranoia and hallucinations), and determine whether appraisals explain additional variance in psychotic symptoms above dissociative symptoms.
Fifty items were generated from transcripts of interviews with patients. The measure was developed and psychometrically validated via factor analysis of data from 9902 general population participants and 1026 patients with psychosis. Convergent validity, test–re-test reliability, and internal reliability were assessed. Regression analyses tested relationships with psychotic symptoms.
A 13-item single-factor measure was developed. Factor analysis indicated good model fit [χ2(65) = 247.173, comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.960, root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.052]. The scale had good convergent validity with a rumination (non-clinical: r = 0.71; clinical: r = 0.73) and dissociation measure (r = 0.81; r = 0.80), high internal consistency (α = 0.93; α = 0.93), and excellent 1-week test–re-test reliability [intraclass correlation (ICC) = 0.90]. It explained variance in psychotic symptoms (paranoia: 36.4%; hallucinations: 35.0%), including additional variance compared with dissociation alone (paranoia: 5.3%; hallucinations: 2.3%).
The Cognitive Appraisals of Dissociation in Psychosis (CAD-P) measure is a psychometrically robust scale identifying appraisals of dissociative experiences in psychosis and is associated with the presence of psychotic experiences. It is likely to prove useful for clinical assessment and research.
The Green et al., Paranoid Thoughts Scale (GPTS) – comprising two 16-item scales assessing ideas of reference (Part A) and ideas of persecution (Part B) – was developed over a decade ago. Our aim was to conduct the first large-scale psychometric evaluation.
In total, 10 551 individuals provided GPTS data. Four hundred and twenty-two patients with psychosis and 805 non-clinical individuals completed GPTS Parts A and B. An additional 1743 patients with psychosis and 7581 non-clinical individuals completed GPTS Part B. Factor analysis, item response theory, and receiver operating characteristic analyses were conducted.
The original two-factor structure of the GPTS had an inadequate model fit: Part A did not form a unidimensional scale and multiple items were locally dependant. A Revised-GPTS (R-GPTS) was formed, comprising eight-item ideas of reference and 10-item ideas of persecution subscales, which had an excellent model fit. All items in the new Reference (a = 2.09–3.67) and Persecution (a = 2.37–4.38) scales were strongly discriminative of shifts in paranoia and had high reliability across the spectrum of severity (a > 0.90). The R-GPTS score ranges are: average (Reference: 0–9; Persecution: 0–4); elevated (Reference: 10–15; Persecution: 5–10); moderately severe (Reference: 16–20; Persecution:11–17); severe (Reference: 21–24; Persecution: 18–27); and very severe (Reference: 25+; Persecution: 28+). Recommended cut-offs on the persecution scale are 11 to discriminate clinical levels of persecutory ideation and 18 for a likely persecutory delusion.
The psychometric evaluation indicated a need to improve the GPTS. The R-GPTS is a more precise measure, has excellent psychometric properties, and is recommended for future studies of paranoia.
There are high rates of obesity and low self-esteem in patients with psychosis. The occurrence of negative voice content directly about appearance is therefore plausible. Derogatory comments about appearance are likely to be distressing, increase depression and contribute to social withdrawal.
To systematically assess the occurrence of voice content regarding appearance and identify correlates.
Sixty patients experiencing verbal auditory hallucinations at least once a week in the context of non-affective psychosis completed a measure assessing positive and negative voice content about appearance. They also completed assessments about body image, self-esteem, psychiatric symptoms and well-being.
Fifty-five (91.7%) participants reported hearing voices comment on their appearance. A total of 54 (90%) patients reported negative voice content about their appearance with 30 (50%) patients experienced negative appearance comments on a daily basis. The most common negative comment was ‘the voices tell me that I am ugly’ (n = 48, 80%). There were 39 (65%) patients who reported positive voice content on appearance. The most frequent positive comment was ‘I look as nice as other people’ (n = 26, 43.3%). Negative voice content about appearance was associated with body image concerns, paranoia, voice hearing severity, depression, worry, negative self-beliefs and safety-seeking behaviours. Positive appearance voice content was associated with greater body esteem and well-being and lower levels of depression and insomnia.
Voice content about appearance is very common for patients seen in clinical services. Negative voice content may reflect – and subsequently reinforce – negative beliefs about one's appearance, low self-esteem, worry and paranoia.
The period before the formation of a persecutory delusion may provide causal insights. Patient accounts are invaluable in informing this understanding.
To inform the understanding of delusion formation, we asked patients about the occurrence of potential causal factors – identified from a cognitive model – before delusion onset.
A total of 100 patients with persecutory delusions completed a checklist about their subjective experiences in the weeks before belief onset. The checklist included items concerning worry, images, low self-esteem, poor sleep, mood dysregulation, dissociation, manic-type symptoms, aberrant salience, hallucinations, substance use and stressors. Time to reach certainty in the delusion was also assessed.
Most commonly it took patients several months to reach delusion certainty (n = 30), although other patients took a few weeks (n = 24), years (n = 21), knew instantly (n = 17) or took a few days (n = 6). The most frequent experiences occurring before delusion onset were: low self-confidence (n = 84); excessive worry (n = 80); not feeling like normal self (n = 77); difficulties concentrating (n = 77); going over problems again and again (n = 75); being very negative about the self (n = 75); images of bad things happening (n = 75); and sleep problems (n = 75). The average number of experiences occurring was high (mean 23.5, s.d. = 8.7). The experiences clustered into six main types, with patients reporting an average of 5.4 (s.d. = 1.0) different types.
Patients report numerous different experiences in the period before full persecutory delusion onset that could be contributory causal factors, consistent with a complex multifactorial view of delusion occurrence. This study, however, relied on retrospective self-report and could not determine causality.
The cognitive process of worry, which keeps negative thoughts in mind and elaborates the content, contributes to the occurrence of many mental health disorders. Our principal aim was to develop a straightforward measure of general problematic worry suitable for research and clinical treatment. Our secondary aim was to develop a measure of problematic worry specifically concerning paranoid fears.
An item pool concerning worry in the past month was evaluated in 250 non-clinical individuals and 50 patients with psychosis in a worry treatment trial. Exploratory factor analysis and item response theory (IRT) informed the selection of scale items. IRT analyses were repeated with the scales administered to 273 non-clinical individuals, 79 patients with psychosis and 93 patients with social anxiety disorder. Other clinical measures were administered to assess concurrent validity. Test-retest reliability was assessed with 75 participants. Sensitivity to change was assessed with 43 patients with psychosis.
A 10-item general worry scale (Dunn Worry Questionnaire; DWQ) and a five-item paranoia worry scale (Paranoia Worries Questionnaire; PWQ) were developed. All items were highly discriminative (DWQ a = 1.98–5.03; PWQ a = 4.10–10.7), indicating small increases in latent worry lead to a high probability of item endorsement. The DWQ was highly informative across a wide range of the worry distribution, whilst the PWQ had greatest precision at clinical levels of paranoia worry. The scales demonstrated excellent internal reliability, test-retest reliability, concurrent validity and sensitivity to change.
The new measures of general problematic worry and worry about paranoid fears have excellent psychometric properties.