About Early Psychosis

What is early psychosis?

When an individual is experiencing psychosis, they’re having mental experiences that involve a distortion of, or a loss of contact with, reality. The most common experiences include:

  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • disorganization

Psychosis can occur at any age, but often psychosis first develops during adolescence and young adulthood.

The development of psychosis

Early psychosis describes the early phases in the development of psychosis. It extends from the first signs of difficulty, through the appearance of psychotic symptoms and the first recognition and diagnosis of psychosis, and into the first three to five years of treatment.

The development of psychosis can be divided into four main phases:

First phase

The at-risk, pre-psychotic or prodromal phase: This is the first phase, when the person has relatively minor, or infrequent psychotic experiences. Often this phase includes significant levels of anxiety or depression. Usually, the young person finds it difficult to keep up with the social, educational and occupational development in their life.

Although many young people experience this phase, they do not always progress past this first stage.

Second phase

Full psychosis: This stage is characterized by intense, frequent psychotic experiences. Psychotic experiences of this intensity and duration are highly disruptive to the person’s life, and to the life of those with whom they live and interact.

Third phase

Untreated psychosis: This phase begins when the psychotic experiences reach the severity and duration of full psychosis and ends when the psychosis is recognized and treatment begins.

Fourth phase

Treated psychosis: This phase begins when treatment is initiated and it continues until the psychotic symptoms are reduced to a level that is no longer disruptive to the person’s life.

Duration of psychosis

The duration of these phases vary widely from person to person. In some cases, these phases last only a few days or weeks, and for others, they can last years. Generally, the at-risk phase lasts for 2-4 years, and the duration of untreated psychosis is about one year. For most people, the treated psychosis phase lasts for 3-9 months.

Because a longer duration of untreated psychosis is associated with a lower chance of recovery, we strive to improve the chances of detecting and identifying psychosis at the earliest possible point in its development, and to begin optimal treatment immediately.

Please note: Even after remission occurs, there is a high potential for relapse. It is particularly important, therefore, for young people with psychosis to continue with treatment, even after remission is achieved.