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February 2001

A Separate Disease Within the Syndrome of Schizophrenia

Author Affiliations

From the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Baltimore (Drs Kirkpatrick, Buchanan, and Carpenter), and the Departments of Psychiatry, University of Maryland, Baltimore (Drs Kirkpatrick, Buchanan, and Carpenter), and Medical College of Virginia, Richmond (Dr Ross). The work of Drs Kirkpatrick, Buchanan, and Carpenter is supported in part by Novartis.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001;58(2):165-171. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.58.2.165

If schizophrenia is a clinical syndrome rather than a single disease, the identification of specific diseases within the syndrome would facilitate the advance of knowledge and the development of more specific treatments. We propose that deficit psychopathology (ie, enduring, idiopathic negative symptoms) defines a group of patients with a disease different from schizophrenia without deficit features, as the deficit and nondeficit groups differ in their signs and symptoms, course, biological correlates, treatment response, and etiologic factors. These differences cannot be attributed to more severe positive psychotic symptoms or a greater duration of illness in the deficit group. The alternative interpretation that patients with deficit schizophrenia are at the severe end of a single disease continuum is not supported by risk factor and biological features data, but there is a need for independent replication of these findings. We suggest a series of studies designed to falsify one of these hypotheses, ie, multiple diseases vs a single disease.

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