The authors examined the development of psychotic experiences and psychotic disorders in a large population-based sample of young adults and explored their relationship to psychotic phenomena earlier in childhood.
The authors conducted a longitudinal birth cohort study of individuals assessed with the semistructured Psychosis-Like Symptom Interviews at ages 12 and 18 years.
Of the 4,724 individuals interviewed at age 18, 433 (9.2%) had either suspected (N=203 [4.3%]) or definite (N=230 [4.9%]) psychotic experiences. Of these, 79 (1.7%) met criteria for a psychotic disorder, and of those, only 50% sought professional help. All psychotic outcomes were more likely in young women and in those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Of the participants who had psychotic experiences at age 12, 78.7% had remitted by age 18. The risk of psychotic disorders at age 18 was greater in those with suspected (odds ratio=5.6, 95% CI=2.6–12.1) and especially in those with definite (odds ratio=12.7, 95% CI=6.2–26.1) psychotic experiences at age 12, and also among those with psychotic experiences at age 12 attributed to sleep or fever or with nonpsychotic experiences such as depersonalization. The positive predictive values for increasing frequency of experiences at age 12 predicting psychotic disorders at age 18 ranged from 5.5% to 22.8%.
Despite evidence for a continuum of psychotic experiences from as early as age 12, positive predictive values for predicting psychotic disorders were too low to offer real potential for targeted interventions. Psychotic disorders in young adults are relatively uncommon, but they constitute an important unmet need for care given that half of the individuals in this study who met criteria for a psychiatric disorder had not sought help for these problems despite high levels of associated distress and impairment.