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Psychiatry Res. 2011 May 15;187(1-2):100-5. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2010.10.007. Epub 2010 Nov 20.

Affective dysfunctions in adolescents at risk for psychosis: emotion awareness and social functioning.

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  • 1Leiden University, Clinical Child and Adolescent Studies, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands.


Studies of individuals at ultra high risk (UHR) for psychosis have revealed deviations in cognitive and neural development before the onset of psychosis. As affective impairments are among the core dysfunctions in psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, this study assessed emotion processing and the relationship with social competence in adolescents at risk for psychosis. Thirty-four adolescents at UHR for psychosis and twenty-three non-clinical controls completed the Bermond-Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire, a measure of emotion awareness. Social inadequacy was measured using the Dutch Personality Questionnaire. Schizophrenia spectrum psychopathology was assessed using self-report and clinical instruments. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) was used to evaluate intellectual functioning. UHR adolescents showed difficulties in identifying and verbalizing their own emotions, independent of intelligence scores. Emotion awareness problems were related to social inadequacy and schizotypal traits in the high risk group. These findings suggest that UHR adolescents may have reduced emotion awareness, independent of intellectual functioning. The relationship with social inadequate behavior fits with the idea that emotion awareness is a prerequisite for the regulation of emotions in social contexts. In the search for early vulnerability markers of risk for psychosis, studying emotion processing besides cognitive abilities might increase our understanding of 'at risk' developmental pathways.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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