Psychosis Risk Syndrome: What Now?

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Abstract

Background:

Schizophrenia is a chronic psychiatric disorder that generally begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. This early onset is often linked with a devastating lifelong impact on both the social network and work capacities of the affected subjects. Beginning in the mid-1990s, several sets of diagnostic criteria aiming to identify “high-risk” patients were developed and applied in clinical studies. Short-term rates of onset of psychosis in this subgroup of subjects ranged from 20% to 40%. However, 20 years later, the proposal to introduce “psychosis risk syndrome” as a coded diagnostic category in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders remained controversial and was finally rejected. Instead, “attenuated psychosis syndrome” was included in section III of the newly published manual as a condition for further studies.

Objective:

The goal of this article is to review the extant literature concerning the advantages and risks of early assessment of psychotic symptoms (“prodrome” and “psychosis-risk syndrome”) and concerning available therapeutic options, both psychosocial and pharmacological.

Conclusions:

“Attenuated psychosis syndrome” is a clinically useful concept. It identifies help-seeking individuals with mental health problems who need an intervention and who, if no treatment strategy is proposed, present a higher likelihood of developing a psychosis spectrum disorder in the years following their first contact with a mental health facility. In parallel with the clinical utility of this concept, additional research focused on this group of patients is warranted to further understand the emerging phase of psychotic disorders and to develop effective and efficient evidence-based prevention strategies.

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