Hopes and Expectations Regarding Genetic Testing for Schizophrenia Among Young Adults at Clinical High-Risk for Psychosis

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Genetic tests for schizophrenia could introduce both risks and benefits. Little is known about the hopes and expectations of young adults at clinical high-risk for psychosis concerning genetic testing for schizophrenia, despite the fact that these youth could be among those highly affected by such tests. We conducted semistructured interviews with 15 young adults at clinical high-risk for psychosis to ask about their interest, expectations, and hopes regarding genetic testing for schizophrenia. Most participants reported a high level of interest in genetic testing for schizophrenia, and the majority said they would take such a test immediately if it were available. Some expressed far-reaching expectations for a genetic test, such as predicting symptom severity and the timing of symptom onset. Several assumed that genetic testing would be accompanied by interventions to prevent schizophrenia. Participants anticipated mixed reactions on finding out they had a genetic risk for schizophrenia, suggesting that they might feel both a sense of relief and a sense of hopelessness. We suggest that genetic counseling could play an important role in counteracting a culture of genetic over-optimism and helping young adults at clinical high-risk for psychosis understand the limitations of genetic testing. Counseling sessions could also invite individuals to explore how receiving genetic risk information might impact their well-being, as early evidence suggests that some psychological factors help individuals cope, whereas others heighten distress related to genetic test results.

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