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Psychol Med. 2016 Oct;46(14):2907-2918. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

The impact of emotion awareness and regulation on social functioning in individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis.

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Department of Psychiatry,Columbia University,New York, NY,USA.
Department of Psychology,The Catholic University of America,Washington, DC,USA.
New York State Psychiatric Institute,New York, NY,USA.
Department of Psychology,Stanford University,Stanford, CA,USA.



Social functioning (SF) difficulties are ubiquitous among individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR), but it is not yet clear why. One possibility is suggested by the observation that effective SF requires adaptive emotion awareness and regulation. Previous reports have documented deficits in emotion awareness and regulation in individuals with schizophrenia, and have shown that such deficits predicted SF. However, it is unknown whether these deficits are present prior to the onset of psychosis or whether they are linked to SF in CHR individuals.


We conducted a cross-sectional comparison of emotion awareness and regulation in 54 individuals at CHR, 87 with schizophrenia and 50 healthy controls (HC). Then, within the CHR group, we examined links between emotion awareness, emotion regulation and SF as indexed by the Global Functioning Scale: Social (Cornblatt et al. 2007).


Group comparisons indicated significant differences between HC and the two clinical groups in their ability to identify and describe feelings, as well as the use of suppression and reappraisal emotion-regulation strategies. Specifically, the CHR and schizophrenia groups displayed comparable deficits in all domains of emotion awareness and emotion regulation. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis indicated that difficulties describing feelings accounted for 23.2% of the SF variance.


The results indicate that CHR individuals display substantial emotion awareness and emotion-regulation deficits, at severity comparable with those observed in individuals with schizophrenia. Such deficits, in particular difficulties describing feelings, predate the onset of psychosis and contribute significantly to poor SF in this population.


Alexithymia; clinical high risk for psychosis; emotion awareness; schizophrenia; social functioning

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