Mood, Anxiety and Psychotic Phenomena Measure a Common Psychopathological Factor: Mood, Anxiety and Psychotic Phenomena

Jan Stochl, Golam M Kandaker, Glyn Lewis, Ian M Goodyer, Stanley Zammit, Sarah A Sullivan, Croudace Tim, Peter Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Psychotic phenomena are common in the general but are excluded from diagnostic criteria for mild to moderate depression and anxiety despite their co-occurrence and shared risk factors. We used item response theory modeling to examine whether the co-occurrence of depressive, anxiety and psychotic phenomena is best explained by (1) a single underlying factor; (2) two separate, uncorrelated factors; (3) two separate yet linked factors; or (4) two separate domains along with an underlying “common mental distress” factor (CMD). We defined where, along any latent continuum, the psychopathological items contributed most information.
Method: Secondary analysis of cross-sectional, item-level information from measures of
depression, anxiety and psychotic experiences in 6,617 participants aged 13 years from the ALSPAC birth cohort and 977 participants aged 18 years from the ROOTS schools-based sample; we replicated results from one sample in the other and validated the latent factors against an earlier parental measure of mental state.
Results: In both cohorts depression, anxiety and psychotic items were best represented as a bi-factor model with a single, unitary CMD factor on which psychotic items conveyed information about the more severe end (model 4); residual variation remained for psychotic items. The CMD factor was significantly associated with the prior parental measure.
Conclusions: Psychotic phenomena co-occur with depression and anxiety in teenagers and may be a marker of severity in a single, unitary dimension of common mental distress. Psychotic phenomena should be routinely included in epidemiological assessments of psychiatric morbidity otherwise the most severe symptomatology remains unmeasured.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1483-1493
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number7
Early online date8 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2015


  • Depression
  • epidemiology
  • nosology
  • psychometrics
  • psychosis

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