Affective Dysregulation and Reality Distortion: A 10-Year Prospective Study of Their Association and Clinical Relevance

Inge van Rossum, Maria-de-Gracia Dominguez, Roselind Lieb, Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, Jim van Os*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Evidence from clinical patient populations indicates that affective dysregulation is strongly associated with reality distortion, suggesting that a process of misassignment of emotional salience may underlie this connection. To examine this in more detail without clinical confounds, affective regulation-reality distortion relationships, and their clinical relevance, were examined in a German prospective cohort community study. A cohort of 2524 adolescents and young adults aged 14-24 years at baseline was examined by experienced psychologists. Presence of psychotic experiences and (hypo)manic and depressive symptoms was assessed at 2 time points (3.5 and up to 10 years after baseline) using the Munich-Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Associations were tested between level of affective dysregulation on the one hand and incidence of psychotic experiences, persistence of these experiences, and psychotic Impairment on the other. Most psychotic experiences occurred in a context of affective dysregulation, and bidirectional dose-response was apparent with greater level of both affective dysregulation and psychotic experiences. Persistence of psychotic experiences was progressively more likely with greater level of (hypo)manic symptoms (odds ratio [OR] trend = 1.51, P <.001) and depressive symptoms (OR trend = 1.15, P = .012). Similarly, psychotic experiences of clinical relevance were progressively more likely to occur with greater level of affective dysregulation (depressive symptoms: OR trend = 1.28, P = .002; (hypo)manic symptoms: OR trend = 1.37, P = .036). Correlated genetic liabilities underlying affective and nonaffective psychotic syndromes may be expressed as correlated dimensions in the general population. Also, affective dysregulation may contribute causally to the persistence and clinical relevance of reality distortion, possibly by facilitating a mechanism of aberrant salience attribution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-571
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • epidemiology
  • adolescent
  • psychosis
  • affective symptoms

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