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Early Signs of Psychosis Could Signal Various Disorders

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Symptoms known to predict schizophrenia may actually predict other mental illnesses instead.

A longitudinal study of 591 young adults in Switzerland tested participants in 1978 for symptoms of psychosis and then followed them for 30 years to see if they developed a psychiatric disorder. Subjects were 19 or 20 years old when the study started and 49 or 50 when it concluded. 

wulf-roessler

The researchers identified a link between early symptoms and later mental illness, but it wasn’t quite the link they expected, according to a report on the study in Psychiatric News (“Psychosis symptoms may not signal start of predictable course,” Oct. 7). Instead of foreshadowing only schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, early signs of psychosis also were found to be precursors of bipolar disorder, dysthymia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other conditions.

“My feeling is that these results are of great importance for the (psychosis) early-recognition and treatment programs,” said project leader Wulf Roessler, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

University of Maryland psychiatry professor William Carpenter Jr., MD, told Psychiatric News the finding that “signs and symptoms associated with the schizophrenia-spectrum construct identify vulnerability to disorders outside the spectrum” was an "important message.” Further investigation of the overlapping could help scientists identify genes that are common common among multiple mental disorders, Carpenter said.

Sub-clinical psychosis symptoms in young adutls are risk factors for subsequent common mental disorders” was published in a September issue of Schizophrenia Research.

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