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Poor insight is prevalent in patients with schizophrenia and has been associated with acute illness severity, medication non-adherence and poor treatment outcomes. Paradoxically, high insight has been associated with various undesirable outcomes, including low self-esteem, depression and low subjective quality of life (QoL) in patients with schizophrenia. Despite the growing body of studies conducted in Western countries supporting the pernicious effects of improved insight in psychosis, which bases on the level of self-stigma, the effects are unclear in non-Western societies. The current study examined the role of self-stigma in the relationship between insight and psychosocial outcomes in a Chinese population.
A total of 170 outpatients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders were recruited from two general university hospitals. Sociodemographic data and clinical variables were recorded and self-report scales were employed to measure self-stigma, depression, insight, self-esteem and subjective QoL. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to analyse the cross-sectional data.
High levels of self-stigma were reported by 39% of the participants (n = 67). The influences of insight, self-stigma, self-esteem and depression on subjective QoL were confirmed by the SEM results. Our model with the closest fit to the data (χ2 = 33.28; df = 20; p = 0.03; χ2/df = 1.66; CFI = 0.98; TLI = 0.97; RMSEA = 0.06) demonstrated that self-stigma might fully mediate the association of insight with low self-esteem, depression and poor subjective QoL. High insight into illness contributed to self-stigma, which caused low self-esteem and depression and, consequently, low QoL. Notably, insight did not directly affect self-esteem, depression or QoL. Furthermore, the association of insight with poor psychosocial outcomes was not moderated by self-stigma.
Our findings support the mediating model of insight relevant to the poor psychosocial outcomes of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia in non-Western societies, in which self-stigma plays a pivotal role. These findings elucidate the direct and indirect effects of insight on psychosocial outcomes and imply that identifying and correcting self-stigma in people with schizophrenia could be beneficial. Additional studies are required to identify whether several other neurocognitive or psychosocial variables mediate or moderate the association of insight with self-esteem, depression and QoL in patients with schizophrenia. Studies with detailed longitudinal assessments are necessary to confirm our findings.
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