Aim: Depressive symptoms are common in the early prodromal phase of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. The objectives of the present study were to retrospectively examine the severity of depressive symptoms and their relationship to positive symptoms over the developmental course of adolescent-onset psychosis (AO-PSY).
Methods: The subjects were 62 unmedicated adolescents with DSM-IV psychosis and 104 normal controls from a Pacific island isolate with an elevated prevalence of schizophrenia. We used a modified K-SADS-PL to assess adolescents for a full range of Axis I psychopathology and quantified severity of depressive and positive symptoms over the adolescent’s lifespan.
Results: Among AO-PSY subjects, 84% reported abnormal levels of depressive symptoms with mean onset 1.3 years prior to transition to psychosis. In 60% of the AO-PSY subjects with depressive symptoms, positive symptoms began first. A continuous linear increase in depressive symptom severity over the developmental course of illness mirrored the steady rise in positive symptom severity as psychosis emerged.
Conclusions: We found that it is typically a combination of positive symptoms and depressive symptoms building in parallel that leads from the prodrome to frank psychosis. These results suggest that depressive symptoms represent more of an integral component of disease progression than an independent risk factor that predicts transition to early onset psychosis.