Fear of recurrence: Results of a randomized trial of relapse detection in schizophrenia

British Journal of Clinical Psychology
Volume 54, Issue 1, pages 49–62, March 2015

We aimed to develop and establish the reliability and validity of a measure of Fear of Recurrence, measuring cognitive appraisals of relapse rather than standard early signs of relapse. We also aimed to establish the sensitivity and specificity to relapse.

Participants diagnosed with schizophrenia or a related disorder were randomized to one of two early signs monitoring conditions, using either the Early Signs Scale or the Fear of Recurrence Scale (FoRSe). Participants were followed up for 6-months or until relapse.

A total of 169 participants were randomized to Standard (n = 86) or FoRSe (n = 83) monitoring. We found good evidence supporting reliability and validity of the FoRSe. In addition, a cut-off point of β‰₯5 was associated with an optimal sensitivity in both Standard (n = 26:79%, 95% CI = 62–89) and FoRSe (n = 18:72%, 95% CI = 52–86) monitoring. However, this degree of sensitivity was associated with a lower specificity in Standard (n = 30:35%, 96% CI = 23–50) and FoRSe (n = 25:46%, 95% CI = 32–60). Finally, Fear of Relapse was a significant predictor of time to relapse [Exp(Ξ²) = 1.20, 95% CI = 1.01–1.42, p < .05].

The study provides evidence that Fear of Recurrence may be an important clinical construct linked to increased risk of relapse and poorer emotional recovery in people diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Practitioner points
Monitoring Fear of Recurrence is as sensitive to relapse detection as monitoring early signs alone.
Greater Fear of Relapse was associated with shorter duration to actual relapse.
Fear of recurrence may be an important clinical feature linked to poorer emotional recovery and increased risk of relapse.
Fear of Recurrence may be an important focus of psychological therapy to promote emotional recovery and prevention of relapse.

Boiling it down: Try to get cognitive-behavioral therapy as well as meds, because one’s beliefs about relapse evidently predict whether they will or won’t.