With Psychosis, Early Intervention Is Key To Long-Term Success

By Victoria Kim 03/14/17

A growing number of psychosis treatment programs highlight the importance of intervention in early adulthood.

Woman talking to her therapist in an office.

Young adulthood is a crucial time for a person’s development—and also a time when approximately 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

That’s why mental health professionals say early intervention is important; by recognizing the early warning signs and getting help, there will be fewer issues down the road as one grows older.

A new clinic in Edison, New Jersey, joins the growing number of programs that specialize in treating early psychosis in young adults. It’s one of three such clinics established recently by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC). 

According to a definition provided by NAMI, “Psychosis is characterized as disruptions to a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what isn’t.”

The program in Edison caters to people aged 15-35 who recognize the onset of psychotic symptoms, which include auditory hallucinations, severe paranoia or delusional ideas.

It’s important to address psychosis in early adulthood because symptoms typically arise between ages 18 and 28, according to a press release by Rutgers University. “The goal is to reduce a person’s symptoms so they can return to their lives, needing less treatment,” said Steve Silverstein of UBHC. 

UBHC’s program offers weekly counseling with a team of behavioral health professionals and support for patients’ employment and education goals. The clinic addresses the specific concerns of people in this age group—which they won’t find in treatment programs designed for those who have been living with psychosis for many years—such as “finishing college, landing that first job and dating,” said Silverstein.

Early intervention is the key to long-term success. “The longer someone has a serious mental illness that affects their development, the more difficult it is for them to get back to their desired level of functioning in educational, work and social settings,” said Silverstein.

Symptoms of a first episode of psychosis reveal themselves gradually. The individual may find it difficult to focus, and hear and see things that no one else does. They may withdraw from family and friends and lose interest in self-care. 

“There are big changes that happen in the brain from about two years before the onset of psychotic symptoms to three years after,” said Silverstein. “This is why early identification of people in need of treatment, and provision of treatment as early as possible, are critical.”

Unfortunately, he adds, people who exhibit these symptoms typically wait at least a year before they receive treatment. 

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr