Avolition and expressive deficits capture negative symptom phenomenology: implications for DSM-5 and schizophrenia research

Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Feb;31(1):161-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.09.002. Epub 2010 Sep 18.


The DSM-5 formulation presents an opportunity to refine the negative symptom assessments that are crucial for a schizophrenia diagnosis. This review traces the history of negative symptom constructs in neuropsychiatry from their earliest conceptualizations in the 19th century. It presents the relevant literature for distinguishing between different types of negative symptoms. Although a National Institute of Mental Health consensus initiative proposed that there are five separate negative symptom domains, our review of the individual items demonstrates no more than three negative symptom domains. Indeed, numerous factor analyses of separate negative symptom scales routinely identify only two domains: 1) expressive deficits, which include affective, linguistic and paralinguistic expressions, and 2) avolition for daily life and social activities. We propose that a focus on expressive deficits and avolition will be of optimum utility for diagnosis, treatment-considerations, and research purposes compared to other negative symptom constructs. We recommend that these two domains should be assessed as separate dimensions in the DSM-5 criteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*