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Deficits in social cognition (SC) are significantly related to community functioning in schizophrenia (SZ). Few studies investigated longitudinal changes in SC and its impact on recovery. In the present study, we aimed: (a) to estimate the magnitude and clinical significance of SC change in outpatients with stable SZ who were assessed at baseline and after 4 years, (b) to identify predictors of reliable and clinically significant change (RCSC), and (c) to determine whether changes in SC over 4 years predicted patient recovery at follow-up.
The reliable change index was used to estimate the proportion of true change in SC, not attributable to measurement error. Stepwise multiple logistic regression models were used to identify the predictors of RCSC in a SC domain (The Awareness of Social Inference Test [TASIT]) and the effect of change in TASIT on recovery at follow-up.
In 548 participants, statistically significant improvements were found for the simple and paradoxical sarcasm of TASIT scale, and for the total score of section 2. The reliable change index was 9.8. A cut-off of 45 identified patients showing clinically significant change. Reliable change was achieved by 12.6% and RCSC by 8% of participants. Lower baseline TASIT sect. 2 score predicted reliable improvement on TASIT sect. 2. Improvement in TASIT sect. 2 scores predicted functional recovery, with a 10-point change predicting 40% increase in the probability of recovery.
The RCSC index provides a conservative way to assess the improvement in the ability to grasp sarcasm in SZ, and is associated with recovery.
Previous researches highlighted among patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) a significant presence of autistic traits, which seem to influence clinical and functional outcomes. The aim of this study was to further deepen the investigation, evaluating how patients with SSD with or without autistic traits may differ with respect to levels of functioning, self-esteem, resilience, and coping profiles.
As part of the add-on autism spectrum study of the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses, 164 outpatients with schizophrenia (SCZ) were recruited at eight Italian University psychiatric clinics. Subjects were grouped depending on the presence of significant autistic traits according to the Adult Autism Subthreshold Spectrum (AdAS Spectrum) instrument (“AT group” vs “No AT group”). Other instruments employed were: Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Specific Levels of Functioning (SLOF), Self-Esteem Rating scale (SERS), Resilience Scale for Adults (RSA), and brief-COPE.
The “AT group” reported significantly higher scores than the “No AT group” on SLOF activities of community living but significantly lower scores on work skills subscale. The same group scored significantly lower also on SERS total score and RSA perception of the self subscale. Higher scores were reported on COPE self-blame, use of emotional support and humor domains in the AT group. Several correlations were found between specific dimensions of the instruments.
Our findings suggest the presence of specific patterns of functioning, resilience, and coping abilities among SSD patients with autistic traits.
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.
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.
Aims – To evaluate the psychometric properties of the Italian version of the Insight Scale (IS), self-report questionnaire assessing the awareness of psychiatric illness. The instrument contains two forms, the first A that enquires about the present status, and the second B that concerns past episodes of illness. Method – Factorial structure, internal consistency and concurrent validity (towards three selected items of the 24-item BPRS, Unusual thought content”, Conceptual disorganisation and Uncooperativeness) were studied on 80 chronic subjects affected by schizophrenia. Differences between acute and stabilised patients were investigated. Test-retest reliability was assessed in a sub-sample of 22 stable cases. Results – The Italian IS showed satisfactory concurrent validity and reliability. Acute patients had lower scores than stabilised ones. Factorial analysis brought to the distinction between insight for need for care in the present and in the past, which seems both plausible and clinically-useful. Conclusion æ The use of the IS Italian version may be encouraged as a valid insight self–report instrument. Sensitivity to change and predictive power concerning clinical and social outcome and adherence to treatment should be investigated.
Declaration of Interest: the study was supported by the National Project Mental Health, Mental Health Institute, Rome, Italy.
Aim - We examined the effect of several clinical variables on the tendency to relapse and to require hospitalization in a cohort of patients, living in the community and followed up naturalistically for seven years. Method - Forty-six patients affected by schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, according to both DSM-IV and ICD-10 criteria, were assessed by Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and Life Skills Profile (LSP). All patients consecutively enrolled, were assessed in a stable clinical phase of illness and treated as usual by their reference psychiatrist. Social and clinical outcome was assessed yearly for seven years after the study entry and analyzed with survival analysis. Results - Patients who did not relapse, were characterized by higher functioning, lower positive symptoms, higher ability in self-care and non-turbulence and higher IQ at their baseline clinical evaluation. These variables were entered in a Cox regression model to corroborate the predictive power on the relapsing course of illness. Only IQ and non-turbulence scores of LSP were entered in the equation (Wald method: p=0.007 and p=0.002 respectively). Conclusions - Several factors interact with the course of illness and influence the tendency to require hospitalization. In the present study we report that non-turbulence is a significant predictor of a non-relapsing course of illness. Further studies are needed to clarify the role of other mediating variables.
Aims – The aim of this work is to present the main discrepancies, as evidenced by the SIEP-DIRECT's Project, between the evidence-based NICE guidelines for schizophrenia and the usual practices of the Italian mental health services in order to promote the recovery of patients with schizophrenia. Methods – Starting from the main NICE recommendations on recovery promotion, 41 indicators were developed. These were experimented in 19 participating Italian Mental Health Departments (MHD) or Psychiatric Services through self-evaluation of the activities carried out to promote patient recovery with the aim of assessing the level of adherence to the recommendations. The data required by most of the indicators were obtained from the psychiatric informative system or from the Direction of the MHD. Moreover, specific research was carried out on the clinical records and on representative patient samples. Furthermore, for 14 indicators, there was requested an assessment by the part of “multidisciplinary” or “specialistic” focus groups who then attributed a score according to a defined “ad hoc” scale. Results – According to the data obtained, although the mental health services seem to care about the physical condition of their patients, they do not routinely examine principle parameters such as blood pressure, glycaemia etc., and collaboration with general practitioners is often complex or not uniformly practiced. Most psychiatrists and psychologists possess the basic communication skills but not enough competences in cognitive-behavioural treatments; such treatments, and every other form of structured individual psychotherapy, are seldom carried out and seem to have become marginal activities within the Services. Also family psycho-educational interventions are under-used. The Services are very active in the care of multi-problem schizophrenia patients, who make up a large percentage (almost a quarter, on average) of the patients in their care. These patients are offered specific and integrated treatment plans with the involvement of other health services and social agencies operating in the territory. The strategies adopted by the services for the pharmacological treatment in the prevention of relapses and for patients with frequent crises or with treatment-resistant schizophrenia are all in line with the NICE recommendations. Finally, the Services promote activities of vocational training and supported employment, but the outcomes of these are often unsatisfactory. Conclusions – The results of the study show a picture of the Italian mental health services with bright yet also dark areas as regards recovery promotion activities. The Services seem to guarantee adequate pharmacological evidence-based treatments, an integrated assistance and good management of multi-problem patients. They have difficulty, however, with respect to the monitoring of the physical health of the patients, psychotherapeutic activities, including those for families, and the promotion of supported employment. Moreover, they still show problems regarding the structuring and formalizing of care processes. To improve this situation, they should make greater use of professional guidelines, protocols and written procedures.
Declaration of Interest: None.
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