Responses to stress in patients with psychotic disorders compared to persons with varying levels of vulnerability to psychosis, persons with depression and healthy controls

Tania M. Lincoln*, Ulf Köther, Maike Hartmann, Jürgen Kempkensteffen, Steffen Moritz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background and Objectives An experimental design was used to test whether self-reported, psychophysiological and symptomatic stress-responses increase as a function of the underlying vulnerability to psychosis as proposed by vulnerability-stress-models.

Methods Stress-responses of participants with psychotic disorders (PSY, n = 35) were compared to those of participants with attenuated positive symptoms (AS, n = 29), first-degree relatives of persons with psychotic disorders (REL, n = 26), healthy controls (HC, n = 28) and controls with depression (DEP, n = 30). Using a repeated measures design, participants were assigned to a noise stressor, a social stressor and a no stress condition in random order. Stress-responses were assessed via self-report, salivary cortisol levels, heart rate and skin conductance levels. State-paranoia and depression were assessed with clinical scales.

Results PSY reported to be significantly more stressed than HC, AS and REL across all conditions which went along with increased heart rate and decreased overall cortisol release. In contrast, AS showed elevated levels of cortisol. PSY showed a stronger response of self-reported stress to the noise condition compared to the no stress condition than HC, but no stronger response than the other samples. Furthermore, the stressors did not trigger stronger psychophysiological responses or symptom-increases in PSY. Limitations The social stressor was brief and not individualized and did not have an effect on cortisol.

Conclusions The findings support the notion that subjective stress-responsiveness increases with vulnerability, but not the assumption that symptoms arise directly as a function of stress and vulnerability. Also, the generally high levels of arousal seem to be more relevant to psychosis than the responsiveness to specific stressors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-101
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume47
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Autonomic stress-responses
  • Depression
  • Endocrine stress-responses
  • Psychosis
  • Stress
  • Vulnerability

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