Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Predicting psychosis in high-risk youth

A study of 325 youngsters in the U.S. has found that those who have a combination of different risk factors for the condition have a 65-80% chance of going on to develop full-blown psychosis. The researchers who conducted the study claim that an understanding of these combinations could help scientists predict who is likely to develop the illness within two to three years with the same accuracy that other kinds of risk factors can predict major medical diseases, such as diabetes. 35% of people with the accepted criteria for being at risk of psychosis go on to develop the illness but the figure rises to 65-80% with the following combination of risk factors :

  • deteriorating social functioning (e.g. spending increasing amounts of time alone in one's room)
  • a family history of psychosis combined with a recent decline in functioning e.g. a drop in school marks or a withdrawal from extracurricular activities)
  • an increase in unusual thoughts (e.g. thinking strangers' conversations are about one's self)
  • an increase in suspicion/paranoia
  • past or current drug abuse

The researchers also found that those who progressed to a psychotic disorder tended to do so relatively quickly. 22% developed psychosis within the first year, 11% by the end of the second year and the remaining 3% by the end of 2 1/2 years.

You can find out more about this research at

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