Ways Early Intervention Helps Schizophrenia

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Early intervention for schizophrenia looks to treat an individual after the first psychotic episode or when they have been identified as high-risk and have symptoms such as depression, anxiety, eccentric behavior, apathy, social withdrawal, suspicions or perceptual abnormalities. A review of research found that the sooner people start treatment after their first psychotic episode, the better the outcome for symptom reduction and functioning.

doctor giving patient antidepressants

Treatments in Early Intervention

The treatments may include antidepressants, low dose antipsychotics, cognitive behavioral therapy, resilience therapy, family education, and educational/vocational rehabilitation according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI).

Better Overall Outcomes

Currently, there is a lag of 8.5 years between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment for schizophrenia according to NAMI. When treatment for schizophrenia started early — after the first psychotic episode — the duration of untreated psychosis, or DUP, was shortened and this was associated with an improved quality of life, according to a report published in the Journal of Psychoses and Related Disorders.

Improved Involvement in Work and School

When researchers looked at the NAVIGATE program, they found that those people who received early intervention treatment for schizophrenia reported a greater involvement in work and school than those who received traditional community care. The OnTrackNY program saw education and employment rates increase from 40 percent to 80 percent after six months in the program according to a study published in 2018.

empty hospital beds

Hospitalizations Decrease

The Felton Early Psychosis Program provides early detection and diagnosis of schizophrenia, employment supports, and treatment for people who have a high risk of developing schizophrenia. Based on their assessments, hospitalizations decreased by 70 percent and hospital days decreased by 73 percent according to NAMI.

Couple in stable relationship.

Relationships Improved

When a research team looked at the results of the NAVIGATE program, they found that interpersonal relations were improved in the participants that received early intervention services as compared to those who received community services. A second study, published in August 2018 also found decreased hospitalizations among those in the OnTrackNY program.

Woman looking out over water.

Disrupts Progression of the Disease

The RAISE study, which looked at early intervention programs, helps to slow the progression of the disease. Researchers believe this may be associated with DUP, the duration the disease is present before treatment begins.

Friends out to lunch.

Lower Levels of Psychotic and Negative Symptoms

When reviewing the results of NAVIGATE, researchers found lower levels of psychotic symptoms in those who were receiving early intervention. In addition, there were fewer negative symptoms, such as self-isolating, neglecting personal hygiene, laughing at odd times, and difficulty expressing emotion, that are common in those with schizophrenia.

calm young woman outdoors

Reduction of Symptoms

Researchers found that The Specialized Treatment Early in Psychosis (STEP) program also had positive results, finding a reduction in schizophrenic symptoms, such as suspiciousness, hearing voices, hallucinations and problems communicating.

Doctors disagreeing.

The Controversy Surrounding Early Intervention Programs

Not everyone agrees that people should be treated for psychosis before symptoms fully appear. Some experts are worried that we are treating people who may never develop schizophrenia while others believe the early intervention is working to decrease the debilitating effects of the disease.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.