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First self-perceived signs and symptoms in emerging psychosis compared with depression


Professor Dr med Anita Riecher-Rössler, University of Basel Psychiatric Clinics, Psychiatric Outpatient Department, University Hospital Basel, Petersgraben 4, CH-4031 Basel, Switzerland. Email:


Aim: To investigate differences between the early symptoms of schizophrenia and depressive disorders.

Methods: Sixty-one individuals with an at-risk mental state (ARMS), 17 of whom later made the transition to psychosis, 37 patients with a first episode of psychosis and 16 controls with depressive disorders were interviewed about first self-perceived signs and symptoms.

Results: In ARMS and first episode of psychosis, on average, first self-perceived signs or symptoms had occurred about 5–6 years before the interview. In ARMS, including transition to psychosis, ‘loss of energy’ and ‘difficulties concentrating’ were the most frequently recalled first signs. There was much overlap for the four most frequently mentioned symptoms in the three groups. As compared with ARMS, controls with depressive disorders significantly more often recalled ‘depression’ and ‘social isolation’ as the very first signs of disease.

Conclusions: Clinicians should consider the development of self-recalled first signs over time carefully when assessing suspected early prodromal stages of schizophrenia and beginning depressive disorder.