Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Storying the Past and the Future Agency and Communion Themes Among Individuals With Schizophrenia and Depression

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Research has linked disturbances in narrative identity with schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. One such disturbance is diminished agency and communion themes in past life stories. However, projecting oneself into the future is also central to identity and potentially impacts recovery. Hence, we examined themes of agency and communion in both past and future life stories and related themes to psychosocial functioning in 20 individuals with schizophrenia, 20 individuals with depressive disorder, and 19 nonpsychiatric controls. Participants were asked to describe up to 10 past and future chapters in their life stories and were assessed on psychosocial functioning and neurocognition. Chapters were coded for agency and communion themes. Both clinical groups displayed diminished agency and communion themes in past but not future life story chapters compared with the nonpsychiatric controls. Furthermore, agency themes in future chapters explained variance in psychosocial functioning after controlling for neurocognition. The results suggest that constructing a narrative identity to foster agency and communion in both past and future chapters may be an important part of recovering from schizophrenia and depression.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Pages (from-to)343-352
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

The study was supported by a grant to the second author by the Velux Foundation (VELUX33266). The first and second authors are affiliated with CON AMORE, which is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF89). The third author is supported by The Independent Research Fund Denmark (no. 8023-00029B).

    Research areas

  • Transdiagnostic markers of psychopathology, identity disturbance, schizophrenia, depression, narrative identity, RECOVERY

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