Gender differences in first self-perceived signs and symptoms in patients with an at-risk mental state and first-episode psychosis

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Abstract

Aim

Gender differences in the current symptomatology of patients with psychotic disorders have previously been described in the literature. However, it has not yet been investigated whether gender differences exist in the very first self-perceived signs or symptoms of illness onset. The aim of this study was to investigate this aspect in at-risk mental state (ARMS) and first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients.

Methods

ARMS and FEP were recruited via the early detection of psychosis (FePsy) clinic Basel, Switzerland. The Basel Interview for Psychosis (BIP) was used to retrospectively assess the first 3 self-perceived signs and symptoms at illness onset. Differences between gender and patient groups on single item and symptom cluster levels were analysed using logistic regression models.

Results

One-hundred-thirty six ARMS (91 men, 45 women) and 89 FEP patients (63 men, 26 women) could be recruited for this study. On a single item level, women more frequently reported “unusual anxiety, fears” and men (at a trend level) “social withdrawal” as being among their 3 first self-perceived symptoms, independent of diagnostic group. On the symptom cluster level, women more frequently reported “increased worrying/anxiety” and (sub-threshold) “hallucinations”, independent of diagnostic group. Problems with “thinking, concentration” were reported more frequently by men in the ARMS group only.

Conclusion

Our results suggest that only few and relatively small gender differences exist in the first self-perceived signs and symptoms. While men initially mainly notice negative/cognitive symptoms, women first notice (sub-threshold) positive and affective symptoms.

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