Daily Ecological Momentary Assessments of happy and sad moods in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders: What do participants who are never sad think about their activities and abilities?

Schizophr Res Cogn. 2021 Jun 16;26:100202. doi: 10.1016/j.scog.2021.100202. eCollection 2021 Dec.


Objectives: People with schizophrenia have challenges in their self-assessments of everyday functioning and those who report no sadness also tend to overestimate their everyday functional abilities. While previous studies were cross-sectional, this study related longitudinal assessments of sadness to self-reports of abilities in domains of everyday functioning and cognitive abilities.

Methods: 71 people with bipolar illness (BPI) were compared to 102 people with schizophrenia (SCZ). Participants were sampled 3 times per day for 30 days with a smartphone-based Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) survey. Each survey asked where they were, with whom they were, what they were doing, and if they were sad. Performance based assessments of executive functioning, social competence, and everyday activities were collected after the EMA period, at which time the participants and observers were asked to provide ratings of three different domains of everyday functioning and neurocognitive ability.

Results: 18% of participants with SCZ reported that they were never sad on any one of the 90 EMA surveys. Reports of never being sad were associated with overestimated functioning compared to observers and SCZ participants who reported that they were never sad were more commonly home and alone than both SCZ participants who reported occasional sadness and participants with BPI. These participants reported being significantly happier than all people in the study.

Implications: Reporting that you were never sad was associated with overestimation of everyday functioning and cognitive abilities. Although participants who were never sad did not perform more poorly on objective measures than those were occasionally sad, their self-assessed functioning was significantly elevated. These data suggest that negative symptoms constructs such as reduced emotional experience need to consider reduced ability to subjectively evaluate emotional experience as a feature of negative symptoms.

Keywords: Activity; Bipolar disorder; Disability; Ecological Momentary Assessment; Sadness; Schizophrenia.