Early warning signs of psychosis

Early warning signs of psychosis are the first indicators of a worsening in mental health. These may relate to changes in thoughts, feelings or behaviours.  They can appear weeks or even months before a period of illness. Evidence suggests that monitoring early warning signs can allow people to intervene early to minimise or even prevent a relapse of psychosis. However, because our thoughts and feeling change a great deal from day to day this type of monitoring can lead to false alarms. This is something which we are trying to address with EMPOWER.

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Image: Andreas Levers

Early warning signs vary between people but common signs include feeling more anxious, withdrawing from others, changes to sleep patterns, feeling confused or becoming suspicious of people.

One of the things which can prevent early intervention when warning signs first appear is fear of what might happen. This can be based on previous negative experiences during periods of illness or a sense of shame at letting people down. This in turn can lead to avoidance of the problem, heightened anxiety or being overly positive. Sometimes mental health services response to early warning signs can also discourage help seeking. We hope that through the routine monitoring of early warning signs people will feel more able to respond helpfully and to intervene effectively.

Too often people with experiences of psychosis get help when things are at crisis point causing distress for everyone involved. This is something we believe can be improved through the careful application of digital technology.