Monday, September 6, 2010

Getting ahead of trouble

Early detection of mental illness may keep it from spiraling out of control

Early detection is as important for mental illnesses as it is for physical ailments, according to two members of Massachusetts General Hospital's Psychiatry department.

In a Boston Globe article, Dr. Oliver Freudenreich, a psychiatrist who directs the First-Episode and Early Psychosis Program (FEPP) at MGH, said, "Catching the illness as early as possible means that you probably have an illness that is not as severe, [for which] interventions work better."

A "psychosis risk syndrome," may present symptoms long before an official diagnosis of schizophrenia could be made. In the FEPP program, doctors recognize that there is usually a period before psychosis can be clearly detected, during which individuals may experience anxiety, sleep problems, difficulty functioning, nonspecific physical symptoms, and/or social isolation.

The MGH program works with young people with very early signs of psychosis, using a variety of therapies to help them. Dr. Corinne Cather, a psychologist who treats patients in the program, said she gives young people and their families hope, helping them to understand what’s happening to them and provide them with skills to manage their symptoms.

FEPP is a research program within the Schizophrenia division at MGH's Psychiatry Department that provides specialized evaluation, treatment, and education for people who are experiencing psychosis for the first time or who have been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder of recent onset (within one year).

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