The role of metacognitive beliefs in determining the impact of anomalous experiences: a comparison of help-seeking and non-help-seeking groups of people experiencing psychotic-like anomalies

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Abstract

Background

Current psychological models of psychotic symptoms suggest that metacognitive beliefs impact on an individual's appraisal of anomalous experiences, and thereby influence whether these lead to distress and become clinical symptoms. This study examined the relationship between maladaptive metacognitive beliefs, anomalous experiences, anomaly-related distress, anxiety and depression and diagnostic status.

Method

The Metacognitions Questionnaire (MCQ), Symptom Checklist 90 – Revised, and Appraisals of Anomalous Experiences interview were administered to 27 people diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, 32 people meeting At Risk Mental State (ARMS) criteria, 24 people with psychotic-like experiences but no need for care, and 32 healthy volunteers.

Results

The two clinical groups scored higher than non-patient controls and individuals experiencing psychotic-like anomalies with no need for care on most subscales of the MCQ, particularly the ‘general negative beliefs about thoughts’ (NEG) subscale. However, most group differences became non-significant when anxiety and depression were controlled for. Few relationships were found between the MCQ subscales and psychotic-like anomalies and anomaly-related distress. Cognitive/attentional difficulty was the only type of anomaly to be significantly associated with maladaptive metacognitive beliefs. Anomaly-related distress was associated with only the NEG subscale of the MCQ.

Conclusions

Maladaptive metacognitive beliefs, as measured by the MCQ, appear to be related more to elevated levels of general psychopathology in psychotic and at-risk groups than to the presence of, and distress associated with, psychotic experiences. Processes by which metacognitions may impact upon the need for care are discussed.

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