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04-04-2013 | Mental health | Article

Psychiatrists recognize impaired functioning in schizophrenia


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medwireNews: Results from a global survey of psychiatrists indicate that they perceive their patients with schizophrenia to have impaired social and personal functioning.

As improved social functioning is a key treatment goal for patients with schizophrenia, "it is hoped that the findings of this survey can contribute to the design of activities and tools applicable to everyday clinical practice to improve the assessment and management of social functioning in patients with schizophrenia," write Philip Gorwood (Sainte-Anne Hospital and Paris-Descartes University, Paris, France) and colleagues.

There were 4163 responses obtained from psychiatrists in 42 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and 73% of respondents stated whether the last 10 patients they saw with schizophrenia had adequate or impaired/very poor functioning.

Overall, 70% of patients seen had, in the opinion of the treating psychiatrists, impaired/very poor functioning, as reported in the Annals of General Psychiatry.

Fifty-three percent of respondents indicated that alleviating psychotic symptoms was the most important goal when treating patients with schizophrenia. Only 17% said that enhancing personal and social functioning was of primary importance.

However, over 90% of respondents said that social functioning was an important treatment goal, not only for patients but also for their families.

Social functioning in patients with schizophrenia should be assessed and recorded on a regular basis, according to 84% of respondents, with 56% of the total survey group mentioning that they assessed social functioning at every visit.

When asked what first step they would take if they found a low level of functioning, 41% of the psychiatrists would use a psychosocial intervention, while 34% would reconsider the patient's current drug therapy. More respondents (46%) preferred psychosocial strategies over pharmacological strategies (26%) or psychotherapy (10%) to improve social functioning.

Gorwood and colleagues note that the preference for alleviating/reducing psychotic symptoms over enhancing functioning could "signify a need for increased awareness amongst psychiatrists of the uncertain correlation between improvements in symptoms and in social functioning."

"These results also highlight that addressing deficits in social and personal functioning in patients with schizophrenia is an important area for further development, where increased emphasis on functioning as a treatment goal may enhance outcomes for patients," they say.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Stephanie Leveene, medwireNews Reporter

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