My ears have been playing tricks on me lately. Am I losing my mind?
Studies suggest that as many as 17% of teens and young adults experience sub-clinical psychotic symptoms (such as eyes or ears playing tricks on them or feeling paranoid). A small percentage of these people will go on to develop a serious mental illness, and even those who develop symptoms of mental illness have a very good chance of recovery, especially if symptoms are caught and treated early.
I thought psychosis comes on suddenly. Is it really possible to catch psychosis before it begins?
Contrary to popular belief, psychosis does not typically appear “out of the blue.”The onset of psychosis is usually gradual over a period of 1-2 years or more. Some of the earliest signs include nonspecific symptoms like withdrawing from friends and family, trouble concentrating, depression, anxiety. Other early signs are more like a less intense form of psychotic symptoms, such as unusual thoughts/beliefs, heightened sensitivity to sounds or light, and suspiciousness. The earlier a person receives help, the better the chances for recovery.
Do I really need to be concerned about these symptoms? Don’t all adolescents go through a difficult phase that they later grow out of?
Contrary to popular belief, research has found that it is not normative for adolescence to be a time of significant turmoil and distress. If you know a young person who has recently begun behaving oddly and/or is struggling at school and with friends, it is important to offer support and help. There can be a number of reasons why these experiences are occurring. A careful assessment can help the young person (and you) better understand what is going on and what types of supports and/or treatments can help. Ignoring early warning signs delays early treatment, and early treatment has the best chance of being effective.
If someone is evaluated by CEDAR and determined to be “at clinical risk”, does this mean they will definitely develop psychosis?
No. New advances have allowed specialists to better predict who may be likely to develop psychosis within the next few years. However, most people who are identified as being at risk do not go on to develop psychosis, especially if they receive early treatment.
Can a person who develops psychosis ever lead a normal life?
Most people with psychosis experience a moderate to good recovery with treatment, especially when it is caught early. This means that many people who are treated for psychosis complete college, find meaningful work, live independently, and have a fulfilling social and family life.
If I refer someone to CEDAR and tell them that I think they are at risk for psychosis, couldn’t that cause unnecessary worry or discrimination?
It is very important to the CEDAR staff to balance the need for early identification, assessment and treatment for clinical risk, while also avoiding using labels whenever possible. Therefore, we are careful to let people know that a number of young people have similar experiences, and there can be a number of reasons why they are occurring. Most young people who are experiencing signs of risk are relieved to find out that they are not alone, that treatment can help, and that the CEDAR staff is committed to helping them get back on track and achieve their personal goals.
I don’t want to take psychiatric medication. Are there any other options?
Initial studies of treatments for people at clinical risk for psychosis have suggested that both psychological and low-dose medication treatments can be helpful. Effective psychological treatments can include cognitive behavioral therapy, reducing daily stress, and family support and education.