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Interpersonal sensitivity is a personality trait described as excessive awareness of both the behaviour and feelings of others. Although interpersonal sensitivity has been found to be one of the vulnerability factors to depression, there has been little interest in its relationship with the prodromal phase of psychosis. The aims of this study were to examine the level of interpersonal sensitivity in a sample of individuals with an at-risk mental state (ARMS) for psychosis and its relationship with other psychopathological features.
Method. Sixty-two individuals with an ARMS for psychosis and 39 control participants completed a series of self-report questionnaires, including the Interpersonal Sensitivity Measure (IPSM), the Prodromal Questionnaire (PQ), the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WCQ) and the Depression and Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS).
Individuals with an ARMS reported higher interpersonal sensitivity compared to controls. Associations between interpersonal sensitivity, positive psychotic symptoms (i.e. paranoid ideation), avoidant coping and symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress were also found.
This study suggests that being ‘hypersensitive’ to interpersonal interactions is a psychological feature of the putatively prodromal phase of psychosis. The relationship between interpersonal sensitivity, attenuated positive psychotic symptoms, avoidant coping and negative emotional states may contribute to long-term deficits in social functioning. We illustrate the importance, when assessing a young client with a possible ARMS, of examining more subtle and subjective symptoms in addition to attenuated positive symptoms.
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