Thursday, January 10, 2008

Predicting Psychotic Illness in High-Risk Youth

A story from National Institutes of Health News passed along by a friend:

Youth who are going to develop psychosis can be identified before their illness becomes full-blown 35 percent of the time if they meet widely accepted criteria for risk, but that figure rises to 65 to 80 percent if they have certain combinations of risk factors, the largest study of its kind has shown. Knowing what these combinations are can help scientists predict who is likely to develop the illnesses within two to three years with the same accuracy that other kinds of risk factors can predict major medical diseases, such as diabetes.

Plans for studies to confirm the results, a necessary step before the findings can be considered for use with patients in health-care settings, are underway.

The research was conducted in youth with a median age of 16 and was funded primarily by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Results were published in the January 7, 2008, issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry by lead researchers Tyrone D. Cannon, Ph.D., of the University of California Los Angeles, and Robert Heinssen, Ph.D., of NIMH, with colleagues from seven other research facilities.

The combinations of factors that predicted psychosis included:

deteriorating social functioning (for example, spending increasing amounts of time alone in one's room, doing nothing);

a family history of psychosis combined with recent decline in ability to function (such as a drop in grades not explained by other factors or an unexplained withdrawal from extracurricular school activities).

increase in unusual thoughts (such as thinking that strangers' conversations are about oneself);

increase in suspicion/paranoia (such as suspicion of being followed); and

past or current drug abuse.

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