, Volume 74, Issue 4, pp 313-332

A Qualitative Research Study of the Evolution of Symptoms in Individuals Identified as Prodromal to Psychosis

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Because schizophrenia is difficult to treat and exacts large personal and societal costs, there is an effort underway to identify adolescents and young adults at high risk for psychosis. Theory-derived criteria of subthreshold positive symptoms identify a “prodromal” or clinically at-risk population who have conversion rates to psychosis of 40 to 50% within one to two years. However, further characterization of the psychosis prodrome by qualitative research methods could increase the predictive value of the “prodromal” designation. We conducted open-ended interviews with 20 parents of prodromal adolescents that focused on changes observed. The narratives fell into two thematically distinct subgroups, identified as “declining” and “never normal.” The prodromal adolescents described as “declining” had a higher subsequent rate of conversion to psychosis than did the “never normal” group. Although preliminary, these results suggest that a trajectory of change in personality, relationships, and behavior from an essentially normal baseline may be consistent with increased risk for psychosis among prodromal adolescents.