Observations of a Small Sample of Adolescents Experiencing an At-Risk Mental State (ARMS) for Psychosis

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Abstract

Some commentaries express concern that the At-Risk Mental State (ARMS) designation can be stigmatizing and induce a lasting sense of personal fragility. However, no studies have actually explored the personal perspectives of those so categorized. The purpose of this study was to explore how adolescents with an ARMS label understand and experience their condition medically and personally. Six participants receiving an ARMS diagnosis were interviewed and the data analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Three superordinate themes emerged: “It is better to say it,” “How others would take me,” and “Just to have somebody to talk to.” The participants’ experiences of being labeled were generally positive with limited instances of stigmatization by family and friends. Like most psychiatric diagnoses, the ARMS label has the potential to generate stigma. In practice, however, this sample of young people appeared to respect being told about the condition and to value the opportunity of talking about their experiences with mental health professionals and significant others.

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