A combination of risk factors allows researchers to predict with up to 80 percent accuracy who is going to experience a psychotic break, the first onset of which can lead to a lifetime of illness, a new study concludes.
The finding may enable researchers to help those who are most at risk for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders to start treatment early.
"If we can identify people at highest risk, we might be able to develop interventions to help delay or prevent the onset of psychosis," says Robert Heinssen, PhD, a clinical psychologist with the National Institute of Mental Health and one of the lead researchers in the study.
Besides leading to earlier treatment efforts, the finding may also help researchers who are trying to understand the changes in brain functioning causing schizophrenia, Heinssen says.
So far, researchers have identified several risk factors, including family history of schizophrenia, a deterioration in social functioning including disturbed thoughts, dropping out of activities and a history of drug abuse.
The results from the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study-a consortium of eight clinical research sites in the United States and Canada-were reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry (Vol. 65, No. 1).