Distress, Impairment and the Extended Psychosis Phenotype: A Network Analysis of Psychotic Experiences in an US General Population Sample

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It has been proposed that subclinical psychotic experiences (PEs) may causally impact on each other over time and engage with one another in patterns of mutual reinforcement and feedback. This subclinical network of experiences in turn may facilitate the onset of psychotic disorder. PEs, however, are not inherently distressing, nor do they inevitably lead to impairment. The question arises therefore, whether nondistressing PEs, distressing PEs, or both, meaningfully inform an extended psychosis phenotype. The current study first aimed to exploit valuable ordinal data that captured the absence, occurrence and associated impairment of PEs in the general population to construct a general population based severity network of PEs. The study then aimed to partition the available ordinal data into 2 sets of binary data to test whether an occurrence network comprised of PE data denoting absence (coded 0) and occurrence/impairment (coded 1) was comparable to an impairment network comprised of binary PE data denoting absence/occurrence (coded 0) and impairment (coded 1). Networks were constructed using state-of-the-art regularized pairwise Markov Random Fields (PMRF). The severity network revealed strong interconnectivity between PEs and nodes denoting paranoia were among the most central in the network. The binary PMRF impairment network structure was similar to the occurrence network, however, the impairment network was characterized by significantly stronger PE interconnectivity. The findings may help researchers and clinicians to consider and determine how, when, and why an individual might transition from experiences that are nondistressing to experiences that are more commonly characteristic of psychosis symptomology in clinical settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)768–777
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number4
Early online date23 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Jul 2018


  • psychotic experiences
  • psychosis phenotype
  • psychosis continuum
  • network analysis
  • epidemiology
  • schizotypy


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