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Schizophr Bull. 2011 May;37(3):561-71. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbp101. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

Affective dysregulation and reality distortion: a 10-year prospective study of their association and clinical relevance.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, European Graduate School of Neuroscience, Maastricht University Medical Centre, PO Box 616 (DRT 10), 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Evidence from clinical patient populations indicates that affective dysregulation is strongly associated with reality distortion, suggesting that a process of misassignment of emotional salience may underlie this connection. To examine this in more detail without clinical confounds, affective regulation-reality distortion relationships, and their clinical relevance, were examined in a German prospective cohort community study. A cohort of 2524 adolescents and young adults aged 14-24 years at baseline was examined by experienced psychologists. Presence of psychotic experiences and (hypo)manic and depressive symptoms was assessed at 2 time points (3.5 and up to 10 years after baseline) using the Munich-Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Associations were tested between level of affective dysregulation on the one hand and incidence of psychotic experiences, persistence of these experiences, and psychotic Impairment on the other. Most psychotic experiences occurred in a context of affective dysregulation, and bidirectional dose-response was apparent with greater level of both affective dysregulation and psychotic experiences. Persistence of psychotic experiences was progressively more likely with greater level of (hypo)manic symptoms (odds ratio [OR] trend=1.51, P<.001) and depressive symptoms (OR trend=1.15, P=.012). Similarly, psychotic experiences of clinical relevance were progressively more likely to occur with greater level of affective dysregulation (depressive symptoms: OR trend=1.28, P=.002; (hypo)manic symptoms: OR trend=1.37, P=.036). Correlated genetic liabilities underlying affective and nonaffective psychotic syndromes may be expressed as correlated dimensions in the general population. Also, affective dysregulation may contribute causally to the persistence and clinical relevance of reality distortion, possibly by facilitating a mechanism of aberrant salience attribution.

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