Understanding Risk

Sometimes young people experience changes in their thinking, feelings, or behavior that are confusing or bothersome. It can be hard to know what to make of these changes. Do other people have these experiences? Should I be worried? Will they pass?

One person may have the sense that his mind is playing tricks on him. Another may feel like she's living in a dream. Young people sometimes describe feeling that lights are brighter than before, sounds are louder, or that it's harder to understand conversations or get their thoughts out. They may just find it harder and harder to pay attention or keep up.

There are many different possible explanations for these types of experiences. Causes range from sleep deprivation, stress, inadequate nutrition, and substance abuse to neurological or mental health disorders including seizures, depression, and schizophrenia. Although these experiences may be fairly common among young people, they may be bothersome or interfere with a person's functioning or sense of well-being.

Many of these changes may be fleeting reactions to temporary stresses. But sometimes they indicate that someone is at risk for worsening problems. In the following pages, we provide information on what being"At Risk" means, what psychosis is (since many of the experiences we describe are mild or subtle forms of psychosis), early signs of psychosis, some guidelines for what may help, and answers to common questions.

Taking the time to understand these types of experiences may reduce the fear and misunderstandings that keep people from getting help early.

See What Does "At Risk" Mean? >