Although most people think that psychosis appears "out of nowhere", this is very rare. There are often warning signs, months or even years before. Of course, these signs are easier to recognize when we look back, so we wanted to make this article to learn to recognize some warning signs when they first appear. Early recognition offers a better opportunity for intervention and prevention of psychosis.
- 1 The psychotic outbreaks
- 2 Early warning signs of psychosis and symptoms to consider
- 3 Attenuated Psychotic Symptoms
- 4 People who may have a higher risk of psychosis
People who have suffered a psychotic outbreak sometimes describe the first changes they have as a greater difficulty in filtering information, distractions and sensations. They may have trouble concentrating or understanding what they are hearing. Visual experiences may feel brighter or more intense and louder sounds.
It is as if they feel “overloaded” and find it more difficult to keep the thread of what they are thinking, as well as what others are talking about. They may feel more and more disconnected or simply want to be alone. Little by little, they are overwhelmed by the confusion about what is real and what is not, which leads them to distrust, even to feel panic.
Other people, on the other hand, may give the impression that they act strangely, or simply do not seem to themselves. They can present difficulties at school or work, even stop going.
Some of these first changes are not specific to psychosis. In other words, many young people with these signs and symptoms do not have to suffer from psychosis, maybe it's just a temporary reaction to stress. But for those who are in the early stages of a psychotic illness, these symptoms provide important warning signs. When several signs or symptoms occur or become more intense over time, or there is simply a family history of psychotic disorders, it is particularly important to be alert to seek help in time.
Early warning signs of psychosis and symptoms to consider
- Non-specific personality changes
- Social isolation
- Decrease in functioning (at school or at work, in self-care)
- Depressed mood
- Motivation decrease
- Decrease in concentration
- Sleep disturbance
- Reduced emotional expression
- Problems with managing daily stress
- Deterioration in personal hygiene
Other early warning signs are the milder or subtle symptoms of psychosis. We call these attenuated psychotic symptoms.
Attenuated Psychotic Symptoms
- Distrust: For example, they feel increasingly uncomfortable in front of friends, family or teachers without knowing why.
- Rare beliefs or magical thinkingFor example, a sense of confusion about whether a dream really happened, they wonder if other people might be able to read their mind, find significant connections between unrelated events, have frequent experiences of unreality or deja vu.
- Unusual perceptual experiences: For example, the sounds seem to be louder than normal, they see shadows or vague figures out of the corner of the eye, believe that everyday noises sound like words or have a special meaning.
- Tangential or circumstantial speech: For example, they change the topic of conversation for no reason while they are talking, use unusual combinations of words.
When these symptoms have started or worsened during the past year, research suggests that the person may have a higher risk of developing psychosis.
It is noteworthy that some people experience attenuated psychotic symptoms that are long lasting or stable. That is, the symptoms have existed for more than a year but have not been continued or too frequent over time. These individuals do not tend to present as much risk of developing psychosis in the future.
People who may have a higher risk of psychosis
- The people who have a Close relative (a brother or sister, father or mother) who has experienced a mental disorder with psychosis (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression with psychosis) and who have had a decrease in the performance of daily functioning (at school or work, social and family life, self-care) for at least one year.
- The people with complete symptoms (instead of attenuated) of psychosis that began in the last three months, although they are brief and variable. The symptoms can be intense but come and go, last less than an hour, and appear no more than a couple of times each week. They are not frequent or sustained enough to meet the criteria for a total psychotic disorder. However, these symptoms should be taken seriously, in case they become more frequent or sustained over time, as they may be the prelude to a psychotic outbreak.
Importantly, research suggests that early treatment of these symptoms may help prevent more serious problems in the future. As with the first signs of medical illness, if the early signs of mental health problems are left untreated, they are more likely to get worse. On the contrary, if they are treated on time, they often improve.
Early intervention has the potential to delay or ultimately prevent the onset of psychosis., and to improve the results of those who develop a disorder.