Psychiatric Comorbidity is Associated with Increased Skill Deficits



Recent research on psychotherapy has focused on the development and evaluation of disorder-specific treatments. Even though much progress has been made, treatments have not yet reached an ideal level of effectiveness. One reason for this could be the systematic overlap and high comorbidity between mental disorders. Consequently, a new trend has been the examination of transdiagnostic factors in order to conceptualize psychopathology and develop treatment tools. One approach is to strengthen skills (e.g., emotion regulation) that are relevant in different mental disorders. The unique feature of this study is the simultaneous examination of several skills and their relation to psychopathology. Therefore, the current study investigated the skill levels of different groups of inpatients (tinnitus, tinnitus/unipolar mood disorder and anxiety/unipolar mood disorder) and normal controls (n = 124). Participants were evaluated with the ‘operationalized assessment of skills interview’. This interview allows the simultaneous assessment of seven skills (problem solving, social competence, stress management, emotion regulation, relaxation ability, self-efficacy and self-esteem) that are relevant for treatment planning. The results confirm negative correlations between skills and the number of comorbid diagnoses. Multivariate analyses identified significant differences in skill levels between clinical sample and normal controls. Furthermore, within the clinical sample, there were significant differences in skill levels and skill profiles between the different clinical subsamples. To conclude, the improvement of skills that can support recovery from mental disorders is especially relevant for patients with multiple diagnoses. The authors suggest assessing the different skills prior to treatment and considering the skill profiles when planning interventions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key Practitioner Message

  • Lower skill levels are associated with higher comorbidity and higher level of psychopathology of patients.
  • There is evidence for specific skill profiles within different clinical subsamples.
  • The improvement of skills that can impact recovery from mental disorders is especially relevant for patients with multiple diagnoses.
  • It makes sense to assess the different skills independently and consider them separately when planning interventions.