Premorbid adjustment: A phenotype highlighting a distinction rather than an overlap between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Marcella Rietschel, Alexander Georgi, Christine Schmael, Frederike Schirmbeck, Jana Strohmaier, Katja V. Boesshenz, Markus Schwarz, Markus M. Nöthen, Thomas G. Schulze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Premorbid adjustment (PMA) in schizophrenia (SZ) has been widely studied and shown to be worse in individuals who develop SZ as compared to controls. It has been proposed as a predictor of clinical presentation and outcome, and may delineate a specific SZ phenotype for genetic and other biological studies. Research into PMA in BD has been scarce and inconclusive. Aims: The authors compared PMA in individuals suffering from BD with that of healthy controls and investigated whether levels of PMA in BD patients correlate with specific phenotypic features. Methods: The authors investigated 344 BD patients and 137 population-based controls. Retrospective PMA assessment was performed using the Premorbid Adjustment Scale (PAS). An overall score as well as sub-scores for age ranges and functional domains were obtained. Results: Patients had a better overall PAS score than controls and outperformed controls during early and late adolescence. They scored significantly better than controls in the functional domains "sociability and withdrawal" and "adaptation to school". No differences were observed for the other subscales and there were no differences between groups during childhood. No association was observed between PMA and any of the phenotype characteristics investigated. Conclusions: In the largest study to date on PMA in BD, PMA was shown to be better in bipolar patients than in healthy controls. PMA in BD is not a simple proxy for commonly studied phenotypic markers of severity. PMA emerges as a phenotype in its own right, and highlights an aspect of disparity rather than overlap between SZ and BD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-39
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Manic-depressive illness
  • Premorbid functioning
  • Psychosis
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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