Schizophr Bull 2018 10;44(6):1204-1216
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA.
Objective: Common genetic variation spans schizophrenia, schizoaffective and bipolar disorders, but historically, these syndromes have been distinguished categorically. A symptom dimension shared across these syndromes, if such a general factor exists, might provide a clearer target for understanding and treating mental illnesses that share core biological bases.
Method: We tested the hypothesis that a bifactor model of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), containing 1 general factor and 5 specific factors (positive, negative, disorganized, excited, anxiety), explains the cross-diagnostic structure of symptoms better than the traditional 5-factor model, and examined the extent to which a general factor reflects the overall severity of symptoms spanning diagnoses in 5094 total patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizoaffective, and bipolar disorder.
Results: The bifactor model provided superior fit across diagnoses, and was closer to the "true" model, compared to the traditional 5-factor model (Vuong test; P < .001). The general factor included high loadings on 28 of the 30 PANSS items, omitting symptoms associated with the excitement and anxiety/depression domains. The general factor had highest total loadings on symptoms that are often associated with the positive and disorganization syndromes, but there were also substantial loadings on the negative syndrome thus leading to the interpretation of this factor as reflecting generalized psychosis.
Conclusions: A bifactor model derived from the PANSS can provide a stronger framework for measuring cross-diagnostic psychopathology than a 5-factor model, and includes a generalized psychosis dimension shared at least across schizophrenia, schizoaffective, and bipolar disorder.