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Can J Psychiatry. 2013 Jan;58(1):32-40.

The significance of at-risk symptoms for psychosis in children and adolescents.

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  • 1University Hospital of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


The early detection and treatment of people at risk for psychosis is currently regarded as a promising strategy in fighting the devastating consequences of psychotic disorders. Currently, the 2 most broadly used sets of at-risk criteria, that is, ultra-high risk (UHR) and basic symptom criteria, were developed mainly in adult samples. We review the data regarding the presence and relevance of at-risk symptoms for psychosis in children and adolescents. The few existing studies suggest that attenuated psychotic symptoms (APS) and brief limited intermittent psychotic symptoms (BLIPS) do have some clinical relevance in young adolescents from the general population. Nevertheless, their differentiation from atypical psychotic symptoms or an emerging schizotypal personality disorder, as well as their stability and predictive accuracy for psychosis, are still unclear. Further, standard interviews for UHR criteria do not define a minimum age for the assessment of APS and BLIPS or guidelines as to when and how to include information from parents. APS and basic symptoms may be predictive of conversion to psychosis in help-seeking young adolescents. Nevertheless, the rate and timing, and thus the required observation time, need further study. Moreover, no study has yet addressed the issue of how to treat children and adolescents presenting with at-risk symptoms and criteria. Further research is urgently needed to examine if current at-risk criteria and approaches have to be tailored to the special needs of children and adolescents. A preliminary rationale for how to deal with at-risk symptoms for psychosis in clinical practice is provided.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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