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Social isolation and psychosis: an investigation of social interactions and paranoia in daily life

Fett, A-K. ORCID: 0000-0003-0282-273X, Hanssen, E., Eemers, M. , Peters, E.R. & Shergill, S. S. (2022). Social isolation and psychosis: an investigation of social interactions and paranoia in daily life. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 272, pp. 119-127. doi: 10.1007/s00406-021-01278-4


Social isolation has been suggested to foster paranoia. Here we investigate whether social company (i.e., being alone vs. not) and its nature (i.e., stranger/distant vs. familiar other) affects paranoia differently depending on psychosis risk. Social interactions and paranoid thinking in daily life were investigated in 29 patients with clinically stable non-affective psychotic disorders, 20 first-degree relatives, and 26 controls (n = 75), using the experience sampling method (ESM). ESM was completed up to ten times daily for 1 week. Patients experienced marginally greater paranoia than relatives [b = 0.47, p = 0.08, 95% CI (− 0.06, 1.0)] and significantly greater paranoia than controls [b = 0.55, p = 0.03, 95% CI (0.5, 1.0)], but controls and relatives did not differ [b = 0.07, p = 0.78, 95% CI (− 0.47, 0.61)]. Patients were more often alone [68.5% vs. 44.8% and 56.2%, respectively, p = 0.057] and experienced greater paranoia when alone than when in company [b = 0.11, p = 0.016, 95% CI (0.02, 0.19)]. In relatives this was reversed [b = − 0.17, p < 0.001, 95% CI (− 0.28, − 0.07)] and in controls non-significant [b = − 0.02, p = 0.67, 95% CI (− 0.09, 0.06)]. The time-lagged association between being in social company and subsequent paranoia was non-significant and paranoia did not predict the likelihood of being in social company over time (both p’s = 0.68). All groups experienced greater paranoia in company of strangers/distant others than familiar others [X2(2) = 4.56, p = 0.03] and being with familiar others was associated with lower paranoia over time [X2(2) = 4.9, p = 0.03]. Patients are frequently alone. Importantly, social company appears to limit their paranoia, particularly when being with familiar people. The findings stress the importance of interventions that foster social engagement and ties with family and friends.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Social functioning, Paranoid delusions, Psychosis continuum, Experience sampling, Non-afective psychosis
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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