Psychotic symptoms, functioning and coping in adolescents with mental illness

Johanna T. W. Wigman*, Nina Devlin, Ian Kelleher, Aileen Murtagh, Michelle Harley, Anne Kehoe, Carol Fitzpatrick, Mary Cannon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Psychotic symptoms in the context of psychiatric disorders are associated with poor functional outcomes. Environmental stressors are important in the development of psychosis; however, distress may only be pathogenic when it exceeds an individual's ability to cope with it. Therefore, one interesting factor regarding poor functional outcomes in patients with psychotic symptoms may be poor coping. This paper aimed to address the question whether 1) psychotic symptoms are associated with poorer functioning and 2) whether poor coping moderated the association. Methods: In a clinical case-clinical control study of 106 newly-referred adolescent patients with non-psychotic psychiatric disorders, coping was investigated using the Adolescents Coping Scale. Severity of impairment in socio-occupational functioning was assessed with the Children's Global Assessment Scale. Results: Patients with non-psychotic psychiatric disorders and additional psychotic symptoms (N = 50) had poorer functioning and were more likely to use avoidance-oriented coping compared to patients with non-psychotic psychiatric disorders without psychotic symptoms (N = 56). No differences were found with respect to approach-oriented coping. When stratifying for poor/good coping, only those adolescent patients with psychotic symptoms who applied poor coping (i.e. less use of approach-oriented coping styles [OR 0.24, p <0.015] and more use of avoidance-oriented coping [OR 0.23, p <0.034]) had poorer functioning. However, these interactions were not significant. Conclusions: Non-adaptive coping and poorer functioning were more often present in adolescents with non-psychotic psychiatric disorders and additional psychotic symptoms. Due to small subgroups, our analyses could not give definitive conclusions about the question whether coping moderated the association between psychotic symptoms and functioning. Improvement of coping skills may form an important target for intervention that may contribute to better clinical and functional outcomes in patients with psychotic symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number97
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Coping
  • Adolescents
  • Functioning
  • Mental health


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