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Attachment theory proposes that psychological functioning and affect regulations are influenced by the attachment we form with others. Early relationships with parents or caregivers lay the foundations for attachment styles. These styles are proposed to influence how we relate to others during our life can be modified by the relationships and events we experience in our lifespan. A secure attachment style is associated with a capacity to manage distress, comfort with autonomy and the ability to form relationships with others, whereas insecure attachment can lead to dysfunctional relationships, emotional and behaviour avoidance. Attachment theory provides a useful framework to inform our understanding of relationship difficulties in people with psychosis. This paper aims to complement recent systematic reviews by providing an overview of attachment theory, its application to psychosis, including an understanding of measurement issues and the clinical implications offered.
A narrative review was completed of the measures of attachment and parental bonding in psychosis. Its clinical implications are also discussed. The paper also explores the link between insecure attachment styles and illness course, social functioning and symptomatology. The following questions are addressed: What are the key attachment measures that have been used within the attachment and psychosis literature? What are the results of studies that have measured attachment or parental bonding in psychosis and what clinical implications can we derive from it? What are some of the key questions for future research from these findings in relation to the onset of psychosis research field?
The most commonly used measures of attachment in psychosis research are reviewed. Self-report questionnaires and semi-structured interviews have mainly been used to examine attachment styles in adult samples and in recent years comprise a measure specifically developed for a psychosis group. The review suggests that insecure attachment styles are common in psychosis samples. Key relationships were observed between insecure, avoidant and anxious attachment styles and psychosis development, expression and long-term outcome.
Attachment theory can provide a useful framework to facilitate our understanding of interpersonal difficulties in psychosis that may predate its onset and impact on observed variability in outcomes, including treatment engagement. Greater attention should be given to the assessment of attachment needs and to the development of interventions that seek to compensate for these difficulties. However, further investigations are required on specifying the exact mechanisms by which specific attachment styles impact on the development of psychosis and its course.
Cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychotic disorder but the temporal relationship between cannabis use and onset of illness is unclear. The objective of this study was to assess prospectively the influence of cannabis use on transition to psychosis in people at ultra-high risk (UHR) for the disorder.
Lifetime and continued cannabis use was assessed in a consecutively ascertained sample of 182 people (104 male, 78 female) at UHR for psychosis. Individuals were then followed clinically for 2 years to determine their clinical outcomes.
Lifetime cannabis use was reported by 134 individuals (73.6%). However, most of these individuals had stopped using cannabis before clinical presentation (n = 98, 73.1%), usually because of adverse effects. Among lifetime users, frequent use, early-onset use and continued use after presentation were all associated with an increase in transition to psychosis. Transition to psychosis was highest among those who started using cannabis before the age of 15 years and went on to use frequently (frequent early-onset use: 25%; infrequent or late-onset use: 5%; χ21 = 10.971, p = 0.001). However, within the whole sample, cannabis users were no more likely to develop psychosis than those who had never used cannabis (cannabis use: 12.7%; no use: 18.8%; χ21 = 1.061, p = 0.303).
In people at UHR for psychosis, lifetime cannabis use was common but not related to outcome. Among cannabis users, frequent use, early-onset use and continued use after clinical presentation were associated with transition to psychosis.
This paper aims at providing an overview of the background, design and initial findings of Psychosis Incident Cohort Outcome Study (PICOS).
PICOS is a large multi-site population-based study on first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients attending public mental health services in the Veneto region (Italy) over a 3-year period. PICOS has a naturalistic longitudinal design and it includes three different modules addressing, respectively, clinical and social variables, genetics and brain imaging. Its primary aims are to characterize FEP patients in terms of clinical, psychological and social presentation, and to investigate the relative weight of clinical, environmental and biological factors (i.e. genetics and brain structure/functioning) in predicting the outcome of FEP.
An in-depth description of the research methodology is given first. Details on recruitment phase and baseline and follow-up evaluations are then provided. Initial findings relating to patients' baseline assessments are also presented. Future planned analyses are outlined.
Both strengths and limitations of PICOS are discussed in the light of issues not addressed in the current literature on FEP. This study aims at making a substantial contribution to research on FEP patients. It is hoped that the research strategies adopted in PICOS will enhance the convergence of methodologies in ongoing and future studies on FEP.
This paper examined the hypothesis that males with first-episode psychosis (FEP) experience lower pre-morbid adjustment, greater social disability and more self-perceived needs at illness onset than females (by controlling for duration of untreated psychosis, diagnosis, age and symptoms at onset). Results disconfirming this hypothesis were thought to suggest the potentially mediating role of social context in determining the impact of symptoms and disability on the everyday lives of male patients in the early phase of psychosis.
A large epidemiologically representative cohort of FEP patients (n=517) was assessed within the Psychosis Incident Cohort Outcome Study (PICOS) framework – a multi-site research project examining incident cases of psychosis in Italy's Veneto region.
Despite poorer pre-morbid functioning and higher social disability at illness onset, males reported fewer unmet needs in the functioning domain than females did. An analysis of help provided by informal caregivers showed that males received more help from their families than females did. This finding led us to disconfirm the second part of the hypothesis and suggest that the impact of poorer social performance and unmet needs on everyday life observed in male patients might be hampered by higher tolerance and more support within the family context.
These findings shed new light on rarely investigated sociocultural and contextual factors that may account for the observed discrepancy between social disability and needs for care in FEP patients. They also point to a need for further research on gender differences, with the ultimate aim of delivering gender-sensitive effective mental health care.
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