Predicting Diagnostic Change Among Patients Diagnosed With First-Episode DSM-IV-TR Major Depressive Disorder With Psychotic Features

Article Abstract

Objective: Longitudinal studies beginning from onset of major depressive disorder (MDD) with psychotic features in young adults are rare; therefore, in this study, subjects across a wide age range were included. Since psychotic MDD may be unstable diagnostically, we systematically evaluated such patients prospectively from first episode to ascertain predictors of later diagnostic change.

Method: In this prospective naturalistic study, we recruited patients with DSM-IV-TR psychotic MDD from 1989 through 2003 at psychiatric inpatient units in Massachusetts and Italy and followed them from first hospitalization to compare demographic, antecedent, and first-episode clinical characteristics for associations with later changes of diagnosis based on interviews using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R, Patient Version.

Results: Within a mean (SD) of 4.0 (2.7) years, diagnoses among 107 subjects aged 34.6 (16.2) years (range, 10-82 years) who were experiencing a first lifetime DSM-IV-TR psychotic MDD episode changed in 29.9% to DSM-IV-TR bipolar disorder (18.7%) or schizoaffective disorder (11.2%). Factors associated with stable diagnoses of psychotic MDD included ontological anguish (χ2 = 13.8, P < .0001), nihilistic delusions (χ2 = 4.47, P = .034), and weight loss (χ2 = 4.69, P = .030) at initial syndromal presentation. Factors preceding diagnoses of bipolar disorder included antecedent impulsivity (χ2 = 9.10, P = .003), ICD-10 mixed states at intake (χ2 = 19.4, P < .0001), and previous hypomanic symptoms (χ2 = 13.7, P = .002). Factors predicting later schizoaffective diagnoses included mood-incongruent delusions (χ2 = 9.17, P = .002) and somatosensory hallucinations (χ2 = 9.53, P = .033) at intake, previous functional decline (χ2 = 8.13, P = .008), initial Schneiderian first-rank symptoms (χ2 = 10.6, P = .005), and meeting criteria for ICD-10 schizoaffective disorder at intake (χ2 = 24.9, P < .0001).

Conclusions: Among patients who initially met DSM-IV-TR criteria for first-episode psychotic MDD, early indications of features typically associated with bipolar disorder or with nonaffective psychoses, respectively, strongly predicted later diagnostic change to bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorders. The findings support the value of psychopathological details in improving diagnostic and prognostic criteria for complex illnesses.

J Clin Psychiatry 2013;74(7):723-731

Submitted: December 12, 2012; accepted February 25, 2013 (doi:10.4088/JCP.12m08328).

Corresponding author: Paola Salvatore, MD, International Consortium for Psychotic and Bipolar Disorders Research, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478-9106 (

J Clin Psychiatry 2013;74(7):723-731

Volume: 74

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