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Identification of Psychosis Risk and Diagnosis of First-Episode Psychosis: Advice for Clinicians.

Early detection of psychotic-spectrum disorders among adolescents and young adults is crucial, as the initial years after psychotic symptom onset encompass a critical period in which psychosocial and pharmacological interventions are most effective. Moreover, clinicians and researchers in recent decades have thoroughly characterized psychosis-risk syndromes, in which youth are experiencing early warning signs indicative of heightened risk for developing a psychotic disorder. These insights have created opportunities for intervention even earlier in the illness course, ideally culminating in the prevention or mitigation of psychosis onset. However, identification and diagnosis of early signs of psychosis can be complex, as clinical presentations are heterogeneous, and psychotic symptoms exist on a continuum. When a young person presents to a clinic, it may be unclear whether they are experiencing common, mild psychotic-like symptoms, early warning signs of psychosis, overt psychotic symptoms, or symptoms better accounted for by a non-psychotic disorder. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to provide a framework for clinicians, including those who treat non-psychotic disorders and those in primary care settings, for guiding identification and diagnosis of early psychosis within the presenting clinic or via referral to a specialty clinic. We first provide descriptions and examples of first-episode psychosis (FEP) and psychosis-risk syndromes, as well as assessment tools used to diagnose these conditions. Next, we provide guidance as to the differential diagnosis of conditions which have phenotypic overlap with psychotic disorders, while considering the possibility of co-occurring symptoms in which case transdiagnostic treatments are encouraged. Finally, we conclude with an overview of early detection screening and outreach campaigns, which should be further optimized to reduce the duration of untreated psychosis among youth.

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