Insight and recovery from psychosis in chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder patients
Impaired insight is an important contributing factor to poor treatment response and outcome in schizophrenia. Prior studies have attempted to identify the illness characteristics that underlie these deficits, with conflicting results regarding associations with symptoms and neurocognitive deficits. These inconsistencies may be a function of a number of methodological issues, which were addressed in this study. In a prospective, longitudinal study, 50 individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder underwent baseline assessments upon discharge from an acute inpatient unit, and again at a 6-month follow-up. Unawareness of positive and negative symptoms were studied separately, with analyses focusing on changes in insight over time as well as associations with disorganized symptoms, depression, and card sorting deficits. Subjects showed greater insight for negative symptoms than for positive symptoms. Insight for positive symptoms improved only slightly over the follow-up period, while negative symptom awareness did not change. Insight for negative symptoms showed modest associations with card sorting deficits, while awareness for positive symptoms showed stronger associations with thought disorder, depression, and card sorting deficits. Awareness for positive symptoms in schizophrenia may be distinct from awareness of negative symptoms. Clinicians should also be aware of the multidetermined nature of impaired insight, and future research should aim to isolate distinct mechanisms that give rise to these deficits.