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The Association of Insight and Change in Insight with Clinical Symptoms in Depressed Inpatients
  1. Hongbo He,
  2. Qing Chang and
  3. Yarong Ma
  1. Department of Psychiatry, Guangzhou Huiai Hospital (The Affiliated Brain Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University), Guangzhou, China
  1. correspondence: Hongbo He. Mailing address: The Affiliated Brain Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University (Guangzhou Huiai Hospital), 36 Mingxin Rd., Liwan District, Guangzhou, China. Postcode: 510370. E-Mail: hongbo_he{at}


Background Lack of insight has been extensively studied and was found to be adversely correlated with impaired treatment compliance and worse long term clinical outcomes among patients with schizophrenia, while not much is known about this phenonmenon in patients with severe depression.

Aim To explore the correlates of insight and its relation to symptom changes among the most seriously ill patients with affective disorders, those who require hospitalization.

Methods Patients hospitalized in a large psychiatric hospital in south China with either major depressive disorder (MDD)(N=55) or bipolar depression (BD) (N=85) based on ICD-10 diagnostic criteria were assessed with the Insight and Treatment Attitudes Questionnaire (ITAQ) one week after admission and at the time of discharge. Clinical symptoms were measured at the same time with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD-17) and the Depression subscale of the Symptom Check list-90 (SCL-90). Length of stay (LOS), duration of illness, duration of untreated mood disorder, number of previous episodes of depression and previous admissions for depression were documented during interviews with patients and their families and from a review of medical records. Bivariate correlations and multiple regression analysis were used to examine the relationship of sociodemographic characteristics, clinical symptomatology and clinical history, to insight at the time of admission. The relationships between change in clinical symptoms and change in insight from admission to discharge were also examined.

Results Stepwise multiple regression models suggested that any previous admissions for depression and higher anxiety factor scores on the HAMD-17 are significant independent predictors of insight accounting for 22.9% of the variance. Multiple regression analysis residual change scores (change scores adjusted for baseline values) on the ITAQ showed that improved insight over average stays of 51 days were inversely related to the residual psychomotor retardation factor on the HAMD-17 accounting for 9.1% of the variance.

Conclusions More severe anxiety symptoms and previous hospitalization for depression were associated with greater insight into illness at admission. Reduction of motor retardation symptoms during treatment was associated with greater improvement in insight to the time of discharge. The patients who are sicker at admission and who show more improvement in psycho-motor retardation show the greatest insight.

  • insight
  • clinical symptoms
  • depressive

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