OBJECTIVE: Cognitive alterations putatively contribute to the risk for suicide in individuals with psychosis. Yet, a comprehensive assessment of social- and general-cognitive abilities in a large sample is lacking.
METHODS: Seven-hundred-fifteen individuals diagnosed with a psychotic disorder performed tasks of facial emotion recognition, Theory of Mind, and general cognitive functioning (sustained attention, set-shifting, IQ-tests and verbal learning) as part of the Genetic-Risk-and-Outcome-of-Psychosis (GROUP) study. Presence of past suicide attempt/s and/or current suicidal ideation was reported by 261 individuals and 454 individuals reported no suicide attempt or ideation. We used general linear models to investigate group differences in task performance. All analysis were controlled for age, sex, education, and psychotic symptom severity.
RESULTS: Individuals with suicide attempt and/or ideation showed better performance on the facial emotion recognition task and lower performance on tasks of sustained attention and verbal learning, compared to individuals without suicide attempt and/or ideation, without a clear effect of attempt or ideation. Theory of Mind performance was also better for individuals with suicide attempt and/or ideation, with largest differences between individuals who reported both attempts and ideation compared to individuals without suicide attempt and/or ideation. No effect of suicide attempt and/or ideation was found on misperception of facial emotions, IQ and set-shifting. Overall, effect sizes were small.
CONCLUSION: Higher sensitivity to social-emotional cues together with weakened attentional control and learning capacity was observed in individuals with psychosis and suicide attempt and/or ideation. This may suggest that insufficient capacity for regulating perceived social stress contributes to suicidal thoughts and behavior.