Treatment resistant schizophrenia is associated with the worst community functioning among severely-ill highly-disabling psychiatric conditions and is the most relevant predictor of poorer achievements in functional milestones

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The aim of this work was to compare achievements in milestones of community functioning in highly disabling psychiatric conditions, including treatment resistant schizophrenia (TRS), schizophrenia (responsive to antipsychotics), bipolar disorder, and anxiety/depressive diseases. Also, we investigated the predictors of community functioning outcomes across several domains.

Among consecutive patients screened, 188 met inclusion criteria and 118 ultimately entered the study. Diagnosis of TRS was made by stringent criteria, including historic and perspective evaluations and excluding potential confounding factors. Achievements in functional milestones of everyday living were recorded. Performances in discrete cognitive tasks were assessed. The Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, the Personal and Social Performance Scale, the Drug Attitude Inventory-10, and the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire were administered.

TRS patients showed the highest impairment in community functioning among diagnostic groups. TRS was found to have more severe psychopathology, more impaired cognitive functioning, and poorer psychosocial adjustment compared to all the other groups. In the whole sample, the main predictors of community functioning were the diagnostic group (with TRS diagnosis associated with worst functioning) and achievements in the other functional milestones. In psychotic patients, however, the main predictors of community functioning were clinical and psychopathological variables.

These results may support the hypothesis that TRS represents a separate schizophrenia subtype, with its own neurobiology, psychopathology and clinical course. Our results identify a group of modifiable predictors to be addressed to prevent community disability.

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