Background People with schizophrenia are at high risk of psychotic relapse.The purpose of this study was to evaluate the predictive validity and temporal link of early signs to this.
Methods A study sample of 60 out-patients with schizophrenia was examined every second week over a period of six months. The study design included self-reporting (Early Signs Scale) and objective assessment (General Psychopathology of Positive and Negative Symptom Scale) of behavioural and phenomenological changes (early signs). Criterion cut-off points were based on a comparison to the subjects' individual baseline scores.
Results Twenty-seven subjects (45%) experienced a relapse. Composite increased score (>or= to 10 points) of self-reported/objectively assessed early signs predicted the relapse with a sensitivity of 81% and a specificity of 79%. Thus the predictive validity of early signs of relapse was considerable, particularly self-reporting of early signs of relapse: sensitivity 74% and specificity 79%. The inclusion of objective assessment added only marginally to the prediction. Early signs were detected most often (70%) within the four weeks immediately before the individuals' relapse.
Conclusion Psychotic relapse is most often preceded by early signs.Clinical practice should integrate this knowledge by an ongoing monitoring including self-reporting.