Perceived social stress and symptom severity among help-seeking adolescents with versus without clinical high-risk for psychosis

Zachary B. Millman, Steven C. Pitts, Elizabeth Thompson, Emily R. Kline, Caroline Demro, Marc J. Weintraub, Jordan E. DeVylder, Vijay A. Mittal, Gloria M. Reeves, Jason Schiffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research suggests that social stress exposure influences illness presentation and course among youth at clinical high-risk (CHR) for psychosis, though less is known about the extent to which self-reported perceptions of social stress relate to the severity of positive symptoms. Importantly, despite the notion that youth at CHR are especially susceptible to elevations in positive symptoms under conditions of stress, no study has examined this presumption relative to other psychiatric groups. Extending previous work demonstrating that perceived social stress was higher in a CHR group than in a clinical group of non-CHR, help-seeking controls, the current study aimed to: (1) examine whether perceived social stress is related to the severity of attenuated positive symptoms in the full sample (N = 110); and (2) determine whether CHR status moderates the stress-symptom relation. Exploratory analyses examined relations of perceived social stress to negative, disorganized, and general symptoms. Greater perceptions of social stress were associated with more severe positive symptoms in the entire sample; however, although positive symptoms and perceived social stress were higher in the CHR group, the strength of this relation was statistically indistinguishable across groups. No differential effect of perceived social stress was observed for any symptom domain. Results provide some support for the diathesis-stress model of psychosis, while also suggesting that social stress and symptomatology are related independent of clinical vulnerability to psychosis. Future research would benefit from longitudinal studies of stress-symptom relations across CHR and help-seeking control groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-370
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Clinical high-risk
  • Help-seeking control
  • Social stress
  • Symptom severity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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