The Onset of Psychosis within Adolescents

According to studies, psychotic disorders within adolescents are uncommon. The Onset of Psychosis within adolescents in most cases marks the beginning of a lifetime within mental health services. Professionals suggest that accurate and early diagnosis, along with effective and appropriate treatment, is vital to decrease further secondary handicaps.sni

Symptoms of Psychosis

Psychotic symptoms can be classed as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’. The positive symptoms include delusions and hallucinations. On the other hand, negative symptoms can be characterized by a loss or reduction in typical functioning and include flat affect, limited speech and diminished energy. It is thought that negative symptoms have a stronger effect on cognitive and other areas of functioning than positive symptoms.sni

Psychotic symptoms that develop during adolescence are usually the first episodes of illness. This often leads to uncertain diagnosis as the true nature and history of disorder has yet to unfold. Essentially, first episodes can be a presentation of a lifelong disorder such as schizophrenia or a bipolar affective disorder. It could also be secondary to other organic disorders, particularly substance misuse, or it may just be a brief psychotic episode that is followed by a full recovery and no further presentation of illness.sni

In recent years, professionals are more reluctant to ‘label’ a young person with a diagnosis and this remains a controversial matter among certain professionals. Some argue that diagnosing an adolescent does have a number of advantages, such as availability of resources and support, enabling understanding and provision of information for families and the adolescent and finally helpful in the likely prognosis and future course of the illness. However on the other hand, others impose that the presentation remains in its early stages and further evaluation is essential.sni


In eithercase, intervention, treatment and support with these adolescents is crucial as research has shown that early intervention among adolescents can help prevent further deterioration of their illness. Treatment of adolescents presenting psychotic symptoms should address biological, psychological and social factors as well as consider a young person’s developmental stage. This would include medicines, individual psychological treatments, family-based interventions and educational or vocational strategies.sni

Though medication plays its due course in the treatment, alongside this establishment of a supportive psychotherapeutic relationship with the youngsters is the second key component of treatment. This includes helping the young individual coming to terms with his illness and effects on him and his family. Presentation of psychotic symptoms can be puzzling and frightening for the patient, therefore it is important to explain and reassure him.sni

It is essential that all multi-disciplinary professionals help young people with first episode of psychotic symptoms and provide early intervention. However from a psychological stance, though the effectiveness of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) within adults presenting psychosis has been demonstrated, there remains an absence of high-quality effectiveness for teens experiencing psychosis.sni

By: Fajar Fawad, Forensic Psychologist, UK

The Onset of Psychosis within Adolescents, symptoms and treatment of psychosis, mental health, psychological health

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