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Drop-out rates from evidence-based interventions for people with a diagnosis of personality disorder (PD) are high. The COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated barriers to engagement with the introduction of virtual working. Virtual therapy has a good evidence-base for Axis I disorders, but limited research for Axis II disorders.
To investigate facilitators and barriers to engagement in a Tier 3 PD service virtual group programme.
A virtual group programme was developed in collaboration with service members, and analysed members’ attendance rates over a 5-month period pre- and post-COVID-19. Thematic analysis of semi-structured telephone interviews with 38 members is reported, describing their experience of the virtual group programme.
Attendance rates were significantly higher pre-COVID (72%) than post-COVID (50%). Thematic analysis highlighted key barriers to attendance were: practical issues, low motivation, challenges of working in a group online and feeling triggered at home. Main promoters of engagement were: feeling valued, continued sense of connection and maintaining focus on recovery.
The results suggest that the pandemic has exacerbated relational and practical barriers to engagement in a Tier 3 PD service. Ways of enhancing engagement are discussed, as well as preliminary recommendation for services offering virtual therapy to people with a diagnosis of PD.
Individuals with subthreshold borderline personality disorder (BPD) are commonly encountered in primary care settings, yet the psychological treatments they receive are rarely tailored to their needs. In an effort to capture and treat this group of individuals in a targeted and meaningful way, some primary care settings offer Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving – Emotional Intensity (STEPPS-EI). This evaluation sought to assess the feasibility of STEPPS-EI within NHS primary care services. Employing an uncontrolled design, the evaluation examined recruitment, retention, effectiveness and group appraisal. Findings supported three out of four evaluation objectives for feasibility: uptake of the group was high at 74%, the group was well received by the group and significantly effective at reducing symptoms of BPD, depression and anxiety. However, retention rates were low, with only 43% classed as ‘completers’ of the programme. The results indicate preliminary evidence for STEPPS-EI as a potentially feasible intervention with possible modification to enhance retention and avenues for further study.
Key learning aims
After reading this paper, the reader will be aware of:
(1) Recent developments in the classification and diagnosis of personality disorder leading to the conceptualisation of subthreshold presentations.
(2) The feasibility of conducting a primary care intervention for individuals with emotional intensity difficulties.
(3) The preliminary beneficial outcomes of utilising a primary care intervention for individuals with emotional intensity difficulties.
(4) Potential issues for participants and providers of primary care programmes with future direction for improvement and implementation.
It is unknown whether a ‘jumping to conclusions’ (JTC) data-gathering bias is apparent in specific delusion sub-types. A group with persecutory delusions is compared with a sample of non-clinical controls on a probabilistic reasoning task. Results suggest JTC is apparent in individuals with the persecutory sub-type of delusions.
The Green et al., Paranoid Thoughts Scale (GPTS) – comprising two 16-item scales assessing ideas of reference (Part A) and ideas of persecution (Part B) – was developed over a decade ago. Our aim was to conduct the first large-scale psychometric evaluation.
In total, 10 551 individuals provided GPTS data. Four hundred and twenty-two patients with psychosis and 805 non-clinical individuals completed GPTS Parts A and B. An additional 1743 patients with psychosis and 7581 non-clinical individuals completed GPTS Part B. Factor analysis, item response theory, and receiver operating characteristic analyses were conducted.
The original two-factor structure of the GPTS had an inadequate model fit: Part A did not form a unidimensional scale and multiple items were locally dependant. A Revised-GPTS (R-GPTS) was formed, comprising eight-item ideas of reference and 10-item ideas of persecution subscales, which had an excellent model fit. All items in the new Reference (a = 2.09–3.67) and Persecution (a = 2.37–4.38) scales were strongly discriminative of shifts in paranoia and had high reliability across the spectrum of severity (a > 0.90). The R-GPTS score ranges are: average (Reference: 0–9; Persecution: 0–4); elevated (Reference: 10–15; Persecution: 5–10); moderately severe (Reference: 16–20; Persecution:11–17); severe (Reference: 21–24; Persecution: 18–27); and very severe (Reference: 25+; Persecution: 28+). Recommended cut-offs on the persecution scale are 11 to discriminate clinical levels of persecutory ideation and 18 for a likely persecutory delusion.
The psychometric evaluation indicated a need to improve the GPTS. The R-GPTS is a more precise measure, has excellent psychometric properties, and is recommended for future studies of paranoia.
The cognitive process of worry, which keeps negative thoughts in mind and elaborates the content, contributes to the occurrence of many mental health disorders. Our principal aim was to develop a straightforward measure of general problematic worry suitable for research and clinical treatment. Our secondary aim was to develop a measure of problematic worry specifically concerning paranoid fears.
An item pool concerning worry in the past month was evaluated in 250 non-clinical individuals and 50 patients with psychosis in a worry treatment trial. Exploratory factor analysis and item response theory (IRT) informed the selection of scale items. IRT analyses were repeated with the scales administered to 273 non-clinical individuals, 79 patients with psychosis and 93 patients with social anxiety disorder. Other clinical measures were administered to assess concurrent validity. Test-retest reliability was assessed with 75 participants. Sensitivity to change was assessed with 43 patients with psychosis.
A 10-item general worry scale (Dunn Worry Questionnaire; DWQ) and a five-item paranoia worry scale (Paranoia Worries Questionnaire; PWQ) were developed. All items were highly discriminative (DWQ a = 1.98–5.03; PWQ a = 4.10–10.7), indicating small increases in latent worry lead to a high probability of item endorsement. The DWQ was highly informative across a wide range of the worry distribution, whilst the PWQ had greatest precision at clinical levels of paranoia worry. The scales demonstrated excellent internal reliability, test-retest reliability, concurrent validity and sensitivity to change.
The new measures of general problematic worry and worry about paranoid fears have excellent psychometric properties.
Background: The effective treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) presents healthcare providers with a significant challenge. The evidence base remains limited partially due to a lack of professional consensus and service user involvement regarding ways of measuring change. As a result, the limited evidence that is available draws on such a wide range of outcome measures, that comparison across treatment types is hindered, maintaining a lack of clarity regarding the clinical needs of this group. Aims: This investigation aimed to follow the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE, 2009) research recommendations by asking service users about meaningful change within their recovery. This forms a starting point for the future development of a tailored outcome measure. Method: Fifteen service users with a diagnosis of BPD participated in three focus groups across two specialist Personality Disorder services. The focus groups were analysed using Thematic Analysis. Results: Two superordinate themes were synthesized from the data: (1) recovery to what?: ‘How do you rewrite who you are?’; and (2) conditions for change. Each superordinate theme further consisted of three subordinate themes which elucidated the over-arching themes. Conclusion: This investigation highlights the complex nature of measuring change in people who have received a BPD diagnosis. Further research is needed to develop meaningful ways of measuring change according to the needs and priorities of people with BPD.
Background: Ruminative negative thinking has typically been considered as a factor maintaining common emotional disorders and has recently been shown to maintain persecutory delusions in psychosis. The Perseverative Thinking Questionnaire (PTQ) (Ehring et al., 2011) is a transdiagnostic measure of ruminative negative thinking that shows promise as a “content-free” measure of ruminative negative thinking. Aims: The PTQ has not previously been studied in a psychosis patient group. In this study we report for the first time on the psychometric properties of Ehring et al.'s PTQ in such a group. Method: The PTQ was completed by 142 patients with current persecutory delusions and 273 non-clinical participants. Participants also completed measures of worry and paranoia. A confirmatory factor analysis was performed on the clinical group's PTQ responses to assess the factor structure of the measure. Differences between groups were used to assess criterion reliability. Results: A three lower-order factor structure of the PTQ (core characteristics of ruminative negative thinking, perceived unproductiveness, and capturing mental capacity) was replicated in the clinical sample. Patients with persecutory delusions were shown to experience significantly higher levels of ruminative negative thinking on the PTQ than the general population sample. The PTQ demonstrated high internal reliability. Conclusions: This study did not include test-retest data, and did not compare the PTQ against a measure of depressive rumination but, nevertheless, lends support for the validity of the PTQ as a measure of negative ruminative thinking in patients with psychosis.
Background: Sleep disturbance is increasingly recognized as a major problem for patients with schizophrenia but it is rarely the direct focus of treatment. The main recommended treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy, which we have been evaluating for patients with current delusions and hallucinations in the context of non-affective psychosis. Aims: In this article we describe the lessons we have learned about clinical presentations of sleep problems in schizophrenia and the adaptations to intervention that we recommend for patients with current delusions and hallucinations. Method: Twelve factors that may particularly contribute to sleep problems in schizophrenia are identified. These include delusions and hallucinations interfering with sleep, attempts to use sleep as an escape from voices, circadian rhythm disruption, insufficient daytime activity, and fear of the bed, based upon past adverse experiences. Specific adaptations for psychological treatment related to each factor are described. Conclusions: Our experience is that patients want help to improve their sleep; sleep problems in schizophrenia should be treated with evidence-based interventions, and that the interventions may have the added benefit of lessening the psychotic experiences. A treatment technique hierarchy is proposed for ease of translation to clinical practice.
Background: Worry is a significant problem for individuals with paranoia, leading to delusion persistence and greater levels of distress. There are established theories concerning processes that maintain worry but little has been documented regarding what brings worry to a close. Aims: The aim was to find out what patients with persecutory delusions report are the factors that bring a worry episode to an end. Method: Eight patients with persecutory delusions who reported high levels of worry participated. An open-ended semi-structured interview technique and IPA qualitative analysis was employed to encourage a broad elaboration of relevant constructs. Results: Analyses revealed one theme that captured participants’ detailed descriptions of their experience of worry and five themes that identified factors important for bringing worry episodes to a close: natural drift, distraction, interpersonal support, feeling better, and reality testing. Conclusions: Patients with persecutory delusions report worry being uncontrollable and distressing but are able to identify ways that a period of worry can stop. The present study suggests that building on individuals’ distraction techniques, reality testing ability and their social support network could be of benefit. Research is needed to identify the most effective means of bringing paranoid worries to an end.
Very limited evidence is available on how to treat adults with anorexia
nervosa and treatment outcomes are poor. Novel treatment approaches are
To evaluate the efficacy and acceptability of a novel psychological
therapy for anorexia nervosa (Maudsley Model of Anorexia Nervosa
Treatment for Adults, MANTRA) compared with specialist supportive
clinical management (SSCM) in a randomised controlled trial.
Seventy-two adult out-patients with anorexia nervosa or eating disorder
not otherwise specified were recruited from a specialist eating disorder
service in the UK. Participants were randomly allocated to 20 once weekly
sessions of MANTRA or SSCM and optional additional sessions depending on
severity and clinical need (trial registration: ISRCTN62920529). The
primary outcomes were body mass index, weight and global score on the
Eating Disorders Examination at end of treatment (6 months) and follow-up
(12 months). Secondary outcomes included: depression, anxiety and
clinical impairment; neuropsychological outcomes; recovery rates; and
additional service utilisation.
At baseline, patients randomised to MANTRA were significantly less likely
to be in a partner relationship than those receiving SSCM (3/34
v. 10/36; P < 0.05). Patients in
both treatments improved significantly in terms of eating disorder and
other outcomes, with no differences between groups. Strictly defined
recovery rates were low. However, MANTRA patients were significantly more
likely to require additional in-patient or day-care treatment than those
receiving SSCM (7/34 v. 0/37;
Adults with anorexia nervosa are a difficult to treat group. The
imbalance between groups in partner relationships may explain differences
in service utilisation favouring SSCM. This study confirms SSCM as a
useful treatment for out-patients with anorexia nervosa. The novel
treatment, MANTRA, designed for this patient group may need adaptations
to fully exploit its potential.
Background: Difficulties with comprehending and managing emotions are core features of the pathology of anorexia nervosa (AN). Advancements in understanding aetiology and treatment have been made within other clinical domains by targeting worry and rumination. However, worry and rumination have been given minimal consideration in AN. Aims: This study is the largest to date of worry and rumination in AN. Method: Sixty-two outpatients with a diagnosis of AN took part. Measures of worry, rumination, core AN pathology and neuropsychological correlates were administered. Results: Findings suggest that worry and rumination are elevated in AN patients compared with both healthy controls and anxiety disorder comparison groups. Regression analyses indicated that worry and rumination were significant predictors of eating disorder symptomatology, over and above the effects of anxiety and depression. Worry and rumination were not associated with neuropsychological measures of set-shifting and focus on detail. Conclusions: The data suggest that worry and rumination are major concerns for this group and warrant further study.
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