Distorted reality, altered sensory perceptions and thought processes as well as concentration disorders over a longer period of time can be signs of an increased risk of psychosis. In fact, as many as 20 to 30 per cent of people with symptoms of this kind develop psychosis over the course of three years. By recognising and treating the symptoms early, a deterioration of the condition and a psychotic development can be prevented or delayed. With the "VOICE" project, Barbara Hinterbuchinger from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at MedUni Vienna and University Hospital Vienna is raising awareness of the importance of recognising psychosis at an early stage.
As part of the "VOICE - giving people at increased risk of psychosis a voice" project, psychiatrists from the Division of Social Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy worked together with people at increased risk of psychosis (UHR = Ultra-High Risk for Psychosis) who were or are being treated at the outpatient clinic for the early detection of psychosis at MedUni Vienna and University Hospital Vienna (Head: Nilufar Mossaheb). This type of scientific work is called participatory, in which research is carried out not on, but together with patients, who contribute their expertise as "co-researchers with lived experience".
"I feel like I’m in a dream" - "I hear my thoughts in my head as if they were being spoken out loud by a voice." - "I no longer have a sense of time. - "Sometimes I see shadows in the corner of my eye or hear someone calling my name even though no one is there." - "Completely everyday situations suddenly seem threatening." These are just a few examples of how UHR sufferers describe the changes in their thoughts and feelings. Although such symptoms can also be indicators of other (treatable) mental illnesses, if they occur with a certain frequency and intensity, they can indicate an increased risk of psychosis. According to current data, around 20 to 30 per cent of people with symptoms of this kind develop psychosis over the course of three years.
Early and targeted clarification is important
In order to determine whether there is a risk of psychosis or another psychiatric illness, early examinations in specialised facilities are important. In addition to manifest psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, which are characterised by hallucinations and delusional symptoms, there are also conditions with attenuated psychotic symptoms that may occur less frequently or intensely, but are still associated with a high level of suffering. "By recognising and treating the symptoms early, a worsening of the symptoms and a psychotic development can be prevented or delayed. In particular, it is important to improve the quality of life and treat possible restrictions in everyday life, education or work for those affected. The outpatient clinic for the early detection of psychosis at MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital is one of the few specialised facilities in Austria that can specifically identify an increased risk of psychosis," says Barbara Hinterbuchinger.
The incidence of psychosis and other mental illnesses has risen recently, particularly among adolescents and young adults. Early detection and preventive approaches, the benefits of which have been proven in studies, are also becoming increasingly important in psychiatry. The treatment of early symptoms not only aims to alleviate symptoms, but regular monitoring can also lead to a faster diagnosis and therefore a better prognosis of the illness.
Support points for those affected:
Psychosocial services, crisis intervention centres, Rat auf Draht (for children and adolescents), registered specialists, psychiatric outpatient clinics
,,VOICE - Menschen mit erhöhtem Psychoserisiko eine Stimme geben"