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Psychosis expression in the general population may reflect a behavioral manifestation of the risk for psychotic disorder. It can be conceptualized as an interconnected system of psychotic and affective experiences; a so-called ‘symptom network’. Differences in demographics, as well as exposure to adversities and risk factors, may produce substantial heterogeneity in symptom networks, highlighting potential etiological divergence in psychosis risk.
To explore this idea in a data-driven way, we employed a novel recursive partitioning approach in the 2007 English National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity (N = 7242). We sought to identify ‘network phenotypes’ by explaining heterogeneity in symptom networks through potential moderators, including age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation, childhood abuse, separation from parents, bullying, domestic violence, cannabis use, and alcohol.
Sex was the primary source of heterogeneity in symptom networks. Additional heterogeneity was explained by interpersonal trauma (childhood abuse and domestic violence) in women and domestic violence, cannabis use, ethnicity in men. Among women, especially those exposed to early interpersonal trauma, an affective loading within psychosis may have distinct relevance. Men, particularly those from minority ethnic groups, demonstrated a strong network connection between hallucinatory experiences and persecutory ideation.
Symptom networks of psychosis expression in the general population are highly heterogeneous. The structure of symptom networks seems to reflect distinct sex-related adversities, etiologies, and mechanisms of symptom-expression. Disentangling the complex interplay of sex, minority ethnic group status, and other risk factors may help optimize early intervention and prevention strategies in psychosis.
Childhood trauma (CT) is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders; however, it is unknown whether this represents a diagnosis-specific risk factor for specific psychopathology mediated by structural brain changes. Our aim was to explore whether (i) a predictive CT pattern for transdiagnostic psychopathology exists, and whether (ii) CT can differentiate between distinct diagnosis-dependent psychopathology. Furthermore, we aimed to identify the association between CT, psychopathology and brain structure.
We used multivariate pattern analysis in data from 643 participants of the Personalised Prognostic Tools for Early Psychosis Management study (PRONIA), including healthy controls (HC), recent onset psychosis (ROP), recent onset depression (ROD), and patients clinically at high-risk for psychosis (CHR). Participants completed structured interviews and self-report measures including the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, SCID diagnostic interview, BDI-II, PANSS, Schizophrenia Proneness Instrument, Structured Interview for Prodromal Symptoms and structural MRI, analyzed by voxel-based morphometry.
(i) Patients and HC could be distinguished by their CT pattern with a reasonable precision [balanced accuracy of 71.2% (sensitivity = 72.1%, specificity = 70.4%, p ≤ 0.001]. (ii) Subdomains ‘emotional neglect’ and ‘emotional abuse’ were most predictive for CHR and ROP, while in ROD ‘physical abuse’ and ‘sexual abuse’ were most important. The CT pattern was significantly associated with the severity of depressive symptoms in ROD, ROP, and CHR, as well as with the PANSS total and negative domain scores in the CHR patients. No associations between group-separating CT patterns and brain structure were found.
These results indicate that CT poses a transdiagnostic risk factor for mental health disorders, possibly related to depressive symptoms. While differences in the quality of CT exposure exist, diagnostic differentiation was not possible suggesting a multi-factorial pathogenesis.
Experiences of childhood trauma (CT) are associated with increased psychological vulnerability. Past research suggests that CT might alter stress processing with a subsequent negative impact on mental health. However, it is currently unclear how different domains of CT exert effects on specific subjective experiences of stress during adulthood.
In the present study, we used network analysis to explore the complex interplay between distinct domains of CT and perceived stress in a large, general-population sample of middle-aged adults (N = 1252). We used a data-driven community-detection algorithm to identify strongly connected subgroups of items within the network. To assess the replicability of the findings, we repeated the analyses in a second sample (N = 862). Combining data from both samples, we evaluated network differences between men (n = 955) and women (n = 1159).
Results indicate specific associations between distinct domains of CT and perceived stress. CT domains reflecting a dimension of deprivation, i.e. experiences of neglect, were associated exclusively to a stress network community representing low perceived self-efficacy. By contrast, CT associated with threat, i.e. experiences of abuse, was specifically related to a stress community reflecting perceived helplessness. Our results replicated with high accordance in the second sample. We found no difference in network structure between men and women, but overall a stronger connected network in women.
Our findings emphasize the unique role of distinct domains of CT in psychological stress processes in adulthood, implying opportunities for targeted interventions following distinct domains of CT.
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