Background: Dimensional structures are established for many psychiatric diagnoses, but dimensions have not been compared between diagnostic groups.
Aims: To examine the structure of dimensions in psychosis, to analyse their correlations with disease characteristics and to assess the relative contribution of dimensions v. diagnosis in explaining these characteristics.
Method: Factor analysis of the OPCRIT items of 191 Maudsley Family Study patients with schizophrenia, mood disorders with psychosis, schizoaffective disorder, and other psychotic illnesses, followed by regression of disease characteristics from factor scores and diagnosis.
Results: Five factors were identified (mania, reality distortion, depression, disorganisation, negative); all were more variable in schizophrenia than in affective psychosis. Mania was the best discriminator between schizophrenia and affective psychosis; the negative factor was strongly correlated with poor premorbid functioning, insidious onset and worse course. Dimensions explained more of the disease characteristics than did diagnosis, but the explanatory power of the latter was also high.
Conclusions: Kraepelinian diagnostic categories suffice for understanding illness characteristics, but the use of dimensions adds substantial information.