The Self in the Spectrum: A Meta-analysis of the Evidence Linking Basic Self-Disorders and Schizophrenia

Andrea Raballo, Michele Poletti, Antonio Preti, Josef Parnas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disturbed self-experience has been reported as a characteristic feature of schizophrenia since the first formulation of its diagnostic concept; however, only in the last 2 decades an explicit notion of basic Self-disturbance, or Self-Disorders (SD), has emerged as target for a systematic research program. We conducted systematic searches in bibliographical databases to identify cross-sectional studies that explored SD across different diagnostic groups and explored diagnostic ascription within or outside schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) as main outcome. Data were pooled using fixed-and random-effects meta-analysis models. Heterogeneity was assessed using stratified meta-analyses and meta-regression. Of 218 identified studies, 32 were included in the systematic review and 27 in the meta-analysis. Patients diagnosed with SSD scored higher on measures of SD than healthy controls (HC) (Hedges' g = 1.8; 95% CI = 1.5 to 2.0), individuals diagnosed with other mental illness (OMI) (1.9; 1.6 to 2.2), bipolar or affective disorders (1.8; 1.4 to 2.2), and clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR) (1.6; 0.9 to 2.4). Patients with schizotypy or schizotypal personality disorder scored higher on measures of SD than OMI (1.5; 1.3 to 1.8) and HC (1.4; 1.1 to 1.7). Patients with first-episode psychosis scored higher on measures of SD than HC (2.5; 2.1 to 2.9) and OMI (1.6; 1.2 to 2.1). Subjects at CHR scored higher on measures of SD than HC (2.0; 1.7 to 2.2) and OMI (19; 1.6 to 2.2). Overall, heterogeneity ranged from negligible to high, especially in comparisons of the target group with OMI, probably as a reflection of the immanent diagnostic heterogeneity of this group. The findings suggest that SD selectively aggregate within schizophrenia spectrum disorders as compared to other mental disorders and that they could be a central phenotypic marker of vulnerability to schizophrenia across the different shades of severity of its spectrum of disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1017
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • diagnosis
  • phenomenology
  • schizophrenia spectrum
  • self-disorder
  • subjectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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