Acting Strange Today - Problems Tomorrow

Schizophrenia may not present until much later in life but earlier blips of symptoms may give a hint

(RxWiki News) Is there any way to tell if someone is at risk for psychosis later in life? If doctors could predict later psychosis, could they do something to prevent onset?

A new study suggests that early psychotic symptoms may be future indicators of later severe mental disorders. A group of people were assessed at the baseline and then approximately 24 years later for the longitudinal data. 

"Talk to a doctor if you’re experiencing mental health problems now."

Dr. Nomi Werbeloff PhD., professor in the Department of Community Mental Health at the University of Haifa in Israel, directed a team to look at early life predictors for late life severe mental disorders.

In Israel, in the 1980’s, 4,914 people aged 25 to 34 were screened for psychotic symptoms and risk factors. People from the original group that had actual diagnosable psychotic disorders at the time were removed from the study leaving 4,587 participants.

Twenty four years later, the participants were screened again for psychiatric hospitalizations. 57.2 percent of participants reported at least 1 minor occurrence of psychotic symptoms and 14.3 percent reported at least 1 major occurrence the year before.

Of the original group 172 were eventually hospitalized for psychiatric reasons, 22 of which were hospitalized for a severe mental disorder like schizophrenia.

Hospitalization for severe mental illness was most likely to occur within 5 years of the first onset of symptoms.

According to the study, lower levels of schizophrenia-like behavior in people with schizoid personality traits, such as mild paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations happen to around 30 percent of the general population.

"There is consistent evidence that these attenuated psychotic symptoms may be construed as an expression of liability for schizophrenia and related disorders, just as higher but borderline abnormal levels of blood pressure or glucose express higher liability for metabolic and cardiovascular disease."

This study is published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, May 2012. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
May 5, 2012