Depressive symptom screening and endorsement of psychosis risk-related experiences in a diverse adolescent and young adult outpatient clinic in the US

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Center for Psychiatric Research

Journal Title

Schizophrenia research

MeSH Headings

Adolescent; Young Adult; Humans; Adult; Depression (diagnosis); Psychotic Disorders (diagnosis, therapy, psychology); Hallucinations; Surveys and Questionnaires; Ambulatory Care Facilities


BACKGROUND: Early identification and intervention is a gold standard for psychotic disorders, for which delays in care can have serious consequences. Screening for psychosis in primary care may circumvent barriers related to stigma and facilitate shorter pathways to care. Yet, there is debate regarding the benefit-risk balance for psychosis screening in general adolescent populations. METHODS: Primary care patients of an adolescent/young adult medical clinic in the US ages 14-21 self-administered surveys assessing age, sex, receipt of psychotherapy, and occurrence, frequency (1-5), and distress (0-3) for 23 psychosis risk (PR) symptoms, including 6 general/nonspecific items and 17 psychosis-specific items. Participants also completed the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9); scores of ≥10 suggested clinically significant depressive symptoms. Analyses characterized PR symptoms and examined associations of PR symptom distress with current therapy and depressive symptom severity. RESULTS: Of 212 patients who completed the survey, 75% endorsed ≥1 PR symptom and 27% rated ≥3 on distress for psychosis-specific items. Those with high PHQ-9 scores reported higher PR distress overall (t = -6.1, df = 52.3, p < 0.001) but not on psychosis-specific items such as hallucinations and suspiciousness. One in 9 participants reported heightened PR distress without being in therapy or having high depressive symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Most adolescents in this primary care sample endorsed symptoms associated with PR. Distress related to these symptoms was less common but occurred even in the absence of depressive symptoms. PR screening only in youth with high depressive symptom screens or in mental health care may miss youth needing further assessment for psychosis.

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