On the transience of stability of subthreshold psychopathology

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Abstract

Symptoms of psychopathology lie on a continuum ranging from mental health to psychiatric disorders. Although much research has focused on progression along this continuum, for most individuals, subthreshold symptoms do not escalate into full-blown disorders. This study investigated how the stability of psychopathological symptoms (attractor strength) varies across severity levels (homebase). Data were retrieved from the TRAILS TRANS-ID study, where 122 at-risk young adults (mean age 23.6 years old, 57% males) monitored their mental states daily for a period of six months (± 183 observations per participant). We estimated each individual’s homebase and attractor strength using generalized additive mixed models. Regression analyses showed no association between homebases and attractor strengths (linear model: B = 0.02, p = 0.47, R2 < 0.01; polynomial model: B < 0.01, p = 0.61, R2 < 0.01). Sensitivity analyses where we (1) weighed estimates according to their uncertainty and (2) removed individuals with a DSM-5 diagnosis from the analyses did not change this finding. This suggests that stability is similar across severity levels, implying that subthreshold psychopathology may resemble a stable state rather than a transient intermediate between mental health and psychiatric disorder. Our study thus provides additional support for a dimensional view on psychopathology, which implies that symptoms differ in degree rather than kind.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23306
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2021

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