The pain persists: How social exclusion affects individuals with schizophrenia


Yael Perry, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia (e-mail:


Objectives. Evidence suggests that ostracism exerts an immediate and painful threat to an individual's primary needs for belonging, meaningful existence, control, and self-esteem. Individuals with schizophrenia are particularly likely to experience the effects of ostracism, being amongst the most stigmatized of all the mental illnesses. The aims of the present study were therefore to assess the immediate and delayed effects of ostracism in these individuals, and to explore associations between any observed effects and indices of negative affect and clinical symptoms.

Methods. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, and non-clinical controls engaged in a virtual ball-toss game with two fictitious others. All participants played the game on two separate occasions, participating in both an inclusion and an ostracism condition. Measures of primary needs were obtained after each game.

Results. Findings suggest that the negative impact of social exclusion lasts longer in individuals with schizophrenia, compared with non-clinical controls. Further, clinical participants who reported lower primary needs after a delay were more likely to exhibit higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Conclusions. Future studies should examine the use of regulatory strategies and personal responses to stigma as potential mediators in the maintenance of the negative effects of social exclusion. These lines of research may offer insight into interventions that may assist individuals to better cope with this experience.