Deficiencies in Theory of Mind (ToM) are consistently found in individuals with schizophrenia (SZ), major depressive disorder (MDD), and bipolar disorder (BD). However, the character of these deficits and their role in the pathogenesis of mental illness remains poorly understood. This systematic review synthesizes the available secondary literature pertaining to ToM functioning in individuals with MDD, BD, or SZ, and their respective spectrum disorders in order to delineate disorder or symptom specific patterns of ToM impairment. Literature suggests that ToM deficits increase in severity along the affective-psychotic spectrum, with mild deficits in patients with MDD, and severe deficits in patients with mania or psychosis. Furthermore, ToM deficits appear to be part of a broader developmental phenotype associated with SZ and BD, as suggested by findings of attenuated impairments in ToM in remitted patients with SZ or BD, unaffected first-degree relatives of patients, and clinical high-risk groups. Future psychiatric research on ToM should aim to disentangle relationships between ToM deficits and specific symptom dimensions transdiagnostically, and employ standardized, construct-specific ToM tasks.

bipolar disorder, depression, major depressive disorder, mania, mentalizing, psychosis, schizophrenia, social cognition, Theory of Mind,
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology

van Neerven, T. (Thomas), Bos, D.J. (Dienke J), & van Haren, N.E. (Neeltje EM). (2021). Deficiencies in Theory of Mind in patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder: A systematic review of secondary literature. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (Vol. 120, pp. 249–261). doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.11.011