Distress related to psychotic symptoms in individuals at high risk of psychosis

Rebecca Wilson, Nick Shryane, Alison Yung, Anthony Morrison

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This study assessed the relationship between distress, severity and frequency of attenuated psychotic symptoms in individuals meeting Ultra High Risk (UHR) criteria, both at baseline and over time. It also assessed distress in relation to attenuated symptoms and whether cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) reduced distress over time by symptom type. At baseline a combined total of 592 UHR participants (mean age 19.9; males, 53.9%) from two studies were assessed using a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Change over time from this baseline point was assessed using latent growth curve (LGC) models, based on participants from one of the studies. Distress associated with psychotic symptom was shown to be a separate psychological construct from severity and frequency. Distress was also significantly associated with severity but not frequency. Longitudinal LGC models with 244 participants showed that distress, severity and frequency all reduced over six months, although the rate of distress reduction varied across symptom type. Non-bizarre ideas (NBI) were more distressing and had the fastest rate of distress reduction over time. The baseline distress for some symptoms also strongly predicted the symptom severity change over time, suggesting that distress may cause change in the UHR criteria for unusual thought content (UTC) and NBI symptoms. CBT was not shown to be significantly different from treatment as usual (TAU) in its effect on distress. However, distress reduces over time, particularly in the first 3 months after presentation. We recommend that distress should be used as an outcome in future research and as a clinical indicator.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
JournalSchizophrenia Research.
Early online date26 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • At-risk mental state
  • Ultra-high risk
  • Structural equation modelling
  • Patient-reported outcomes
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Latent growth curves


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