The importance of intervening early
When people go for annual physicals, the physician usually runs blood tests to check for early signs of illness. They do this because they know that making changes in diet and exercise in the earliest stages of diabetes or heart disease will do more good than waiting to take action when the person’s symptoms are causing problems. The saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to psychosis as well. The earlier a young person begins managing symptoms of psychosis, the more likely she is to eventually return to the level of activity (school, work, friends) she had before the illness began.
People who do not wait to get help when they see early signs of a developing problem manage their symptoms better in the long run. If you are concerned about changes in behavior (the things you can see) or changes in perception (the things that a youth reports to you), early psychosis is one possible explanation. Here is what to look for:
A teenager or young adult who…
· Hears or sees things that are not really there
· Believes things that do not make sense (like: “the
FBI is watching me”)
· Has difficulty organizing thoughts or words
· Has difficulty filtering out sights or sounds that are
in the background
· Has difficulty telling the difference between what is real or unreal.
· Suddenly struggles with school or work that used to be doable
· Feels uncomfortable around friends he or
she used to hang out with
· Makes big changes in how he or she dresses, bathes, or grooms
· Loses interest in things he or she used to do with
friends (e.g., movies, sports, shopping)
· Picks up new, perhaps unusual interests that he or she does alone
Having signs of psychosis is not the same thing as having psychosis. A young woman who suddenly struggles in college may be depressed or simply need glasses to correct a vision problem. Psychosis is one possible explanation. An assessment will be necessary to find out if early psychosis is the likely explanation for the changes being experienced. The assessment should be conducted by a professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse practitioner, social worker or counselor. Most importantly, it should be conducted by a professional that is experienced and well-trained to evaluate youth and young adults for serious mental illness.