Emotional and stigma-related experiences relative to being told one is at risk for psychosis

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Schizophrenia research

MeSH Headings

Adolescent; Emotions; Humans; Psychotic Disorders (psychology); Self Concept; Social Stigma


OBJECTIVE: Despite the appeal of early intervention in psychosis, there is concern that identifying youth as having high psychosis risk (PR) may trigger stigma. This study employed a pre-post design to measure change in PR participants' emotions about PR upon being told of their PR status and according to whether this was the first time receiving this information. METHODS: Participants (n = 54) identified as at PR via structured interview rated their emotions about PR before and after being told they were at PR. Qualitative analyses explored the valence of participant reflections on being given this information. RESULTS: Participants reported significantly less negative emotion after being told of their PR status (p < .001), regardless of whether they were hearing this for the first time (p = .72). There was no change in positive emotions or the predominant belief that they should keep their PR status private. Most participants commented positively about the process of feedback but negatively about its impact on their self-perceptions and/or expectations of others' perceptions of them. CONCLUSION: This is the first study to collect pre-post data related to being told one is at PR and to examine quantitative and qualitative responses across and within individuals. For a majority of participants, clinical feedback stimulated negative stereotypes even as it relieved some distress. To actively address internalized stigma, clinicians providing feedback to PR youth must attend to the positive and negative impacts on how youth think about themselves as well as how they feel.

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