Whether studies agree or disagree on the positive-negative dichotomy in schizophrenia, the relevance of a third component, disorganization, remains a point of debate. Disorganization, as expressed by the scale for the assessment of negative symptoms and positive symptoms (SANS-SAPS) and the positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS) principal-component analyses, could be considered as permanent and determinant a dimension as the positive and negative components. The aim of this study therefore was to determine whether this disorganization, with the negative and positive components, is stable and has the same composition in the acute and postacute phases of illness. This study was carried out in 57 patients, broadly defined by at least one of four diagnostic criteria (American Psychiatric Association, Langfeldt, Carpenter and Schneider), established with a computerized checklist, and evaluated with SANS-SAPS and PANSS. Principal component analyses (PCA) of these scales were performed at admission and discharge from hospital.
The PCA of SANS-SAPS displayed a 3-factor solution, regardless of the phase of illness (acute or postacute), showing that the negative, positive and disorganization components were stable. The PCA of PANSS yielded negative and positive components perfectly stable over time and a disorganization component whose composition varied between admission and discharge. At admission, this component included the conceptual disorganization item negatively correlated with one of depression. At discharge, this disorganization component included two additional items, autistic preoccupation and mannerisms and one depression component appeared. The instability of the PCA of PANSS could express the role played by the phase of illness; in an acute phase, this disorganization component was constituted by more “positive” items such as grandiosity, unusual thought content and active social avoidance whereas in the postacute phase, it included items that reflected more the chronicity of the illness, such as mannerisms and autistic preoccupation. Moreover, the depressive item appeared, in the postacute phase, in a specific depressive component. This result could be due to the fact that depressive symptoms cannot be expressed when positive symptoms are very severe, which explains why no depressive components were shown during the acute phase.