DOI: 10.1111/eip.13515 ISSN: 1751-7885

Negative self‐reference as a component of subthreshold psychotic symptoms in clinical high‐risk youth

Michelle Sloan, Rebecca Sturner, Jean Addington, Barbara Cornblatt, Eric Granholm, Kristin S. Cadenhead
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pshychiatric Mental Health



Schizophrenia is a leading cause of disability worldwide; early detection and intervention are critical. Early in their illness, individuals at clinical high‐risk (CHR) for psychosis have subthreshold psychotic symptoms that are often derogatory and self‐directed. We hypothesized that CHR participants with negative self‐reference (NSR) as a component of subthreshold psychosis would also have higher levels of social anxiety and depression, lower self‐esteem and lower social/role/global functioning as compared with CHR participants without NSR.


One hundred and sixty‐eight participants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded Regroup Cognitive Behavioural Social Skills Training (CBSST) study were included. Clinical vignettes that included the Scale of Psychosis‐Risk Symptoms were coded categorically to indicate whether NSR was present. t‐tests were used to determine the association between NSR, symptom, and functional measures.


Participants with NSR demonstrated significantly more social interaction anxiety (p < .001), negative beliefs about the self (p ≤ .001), defeatist beliefs (p < .05), depressive symptoms (p < .05) and positive symptoms (p < .005). There were no significant differences in social self‐efficacy, positive or negative beliefs about others, positive beliefs about the self or psychosocial functioning between the two groups.


Clinically significant differences were found between CHR participants with and without NSR, suggesting that this may be a useful factor to identify and address. Follow‐up studies are needed to determine whether NSR responds to CBSST and whether or not its resolution would be associated with improvement in other symptom domains.

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