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BMC Psychiatry. 2007 Aug 16;7:41.

Diagnostic stability among chronic patients with functional psychoses: an epidemiological and clinical study.

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  • 1Research Institute of Biological Psychiatry, Sct. Hans Hospital, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark.



Diagnostic stability and illness course of chronic non-organic psychoses are complex phenomena and only few risk factors or predictors are known that can be used reliably. This study investigates the diagnostic stability during the entire course of illness in patients with non-organic psychoses and attempts to identify non-psychopathological risk factors or predictors.


100 patients with functional psychosis were initially characterised using the Operational Criteria Checklist for Psychotic Illness and Affective Illness (OPCRIT), medical records and health registers. To study the stability of diagnoses (i.e. shifts per time), we used registry data to define four measures of diagnostic variation that were subsequently examined in relation to four possible measures of time (i.e. observation periods or hospitalisation events). Afterwards, we identified putative co-variables and predictors of the best measures of diagnostic stability.


All four measures of diagnostic variation are very strongly associated with numbers-of-hospitalisations and less so with duration-of-illness, duration-of-hospitalisation and with year-of-first-admission. The four measures of diagnostic variation corrected for numbers-of-hospitalisations were therefore used to study the diagnostic stability. Conventional predictors of illness course - e.g. age-of-onset and premorbid-functioning - are not significantly associated with stability. Only somatic-comorbidity is significantly associated with two measures of stability, while family-history-of-psychiatric-illness and global-assessment-of-functioning (GAF) scale score show a trend. However, the traditional variables age-of-first-admission, civil-status, first-diagnosis-being-schizophrenia and somatic-comorbidity are able to explain two-fifth of the variation in numbers-of-hospitalisations.


Diagnostic stability is closely linked with the contact between patient and the healthcare system. This could very likely be due to fluctuation of disease manifestation over time or presence of co-morbid psychiatric illness in combination with rigid diagnostic criteria that are unable to capture the multiple psychopathologies of the functional psychoses that results in differential diagnoses and therefore diagnostic instability. Not surprisingly, somatic-comorbidity was found to be a predictor of diagnostic variation thereby being a non-psychiatric confounder.

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