Negative symptoms of psychosis: A life course approach and implications for prevention and treatment

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Negative symptoms are a cause of enduring disability in serious mental illness. In spite of this, the development of effective treatments for negative symptoms has remained slow. The challenge of improving negative symptom outcomes is compounded by our limited understanding of their aetiology and longitudinal development.


A literature search was conducted for life course approach of negative symptoms using PubMed. Further articles were included following manual checking of reference lists and other search strategies. The paper contains a theoretical synthesis of the literature, summarized using conceptual models.


Negative symptom definitions are compared and considered within a context of the life course. Previous studies suggest that several illness phases may contribute to negative symptoms, highlighting our uncertainty in relation to the origin of negative symptoms.


Similar to other aspects of schizophrenia, negative symptoms likely involve a complex interplay of several risk and protective factors at different life phases. Concepts suggested in this article, such as “negative symptom reserve” theory, require further research, which may inform future prevention and treatment strategies.

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