Dynamic Interplay Between Insight and Persistent Negative Symptoms in First Episode of Psychosis: A Longitudinal Study

Schizophr Bull. 2022 Jan 21;48(1):211-219. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbab079.


Persistent negative symptoms (PNS) are an important factor of first episode of psychosis (FEP) that present early on in the course of illness and have a major impact on long-term functional outcome. Lack of clinical insight is consistently associated with negative symptoms during the course of schizophrenia, yet only a few studies have explored its evolution in FEP. We sought to explore clinical insight change over a 24-month time period in relation to PNS in a large sample of FEP patients. Clinical insight was assessed in 515 FEP patients using the Scale to assess Unawareness of Mental Disorder. Data on awareness of illness, belief in response to medication, and belief in need for medication were analyzed. Patients were divided into 3 groups based on the presence of negative symptoms: idiopathic (PNS; n = 135), secondary (sPNS; n = 98), or absence (non-PNS; n = 282). Secondary PNS were those with PNS but also had clinically relevant levels of positive, depressive, or extrapyramidal symptoms. Our results revealed that insight improved during the first 2 months for all groups. Patients with PNS and sPNS displayed poorer insight across the 24-month period compared to the non-PNS group, but these 2 groups did not significantly differ. This large longitudinal study supported the strong relationship known to exist between poor insight and negative symptoms early in the course of the disorder and probes into potential factors that transcend the distinction between idiopathic and secondary negative symptoms.

Keywords: awareness of mental illness; clinical insight; first-episode psychosis; idiopathic negative symptoms; secondary negative symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Psychotic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Young Adult

Grant support