Sex differences in prepsychotic "prodromal" symptomatology and its association with Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale active phase psychopathology in male and female patients

Compr Psychiatry. Sep-Oct 2010;51(5):546-51. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2009.11.003. Epub 2009 Dec 22.


Background: A wide spectrum of prodromal symptoms has been reported, but their association with the severity of the active phase psychopathology in relationship to sex is unknown.

Method: Seventy-three (47 male) Diganostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) schizophrenia patients were subjected to the structured clinical interview for Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Prodromal symptoms were recorded retrospectively after psychotic phase had subsided.

Results: Thirty-eight prodromal symptoms were identified. All symptoms appeared in both sexes. However, there was a significantly greater frequency of 3 symptoms (odd beliefs/magical thinking, over elaborate speech, hyperacusia) in female patients and of 2 symptoms (marked peculiar behavior, aggressiveness) in male patients. In the female patients, 9 symptoms were associated with an increased risk for severe total and components of the PANSS psychopathology in the psychotic phase; 2 symptoms were associated with a mild negative subscale psychopathology. In the male patients, 6 symptoms were associated with the severity of the PANSS psychopathology; 5 carried an increase risk for severe and 1 was associated with mild psychopathology. Also, the risk for severe PANSS positive, general, and total psychopathology increased with the increasing number of total and less specific symptoms in the female but not in the male patients.

Conclusions: Sex differences in schizophrenia are extended into the prepsychotic stage. Also, the presence of certain prodromal symptoms, different in men and women, and the number of symptoms in female patients are associated with the severity of the psychotic phase psychopathology. Evaluation of early therapeutic interventions in prodromal phase should consider sex and spectrum of prodromal symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Greece / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors