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Hope for First Episode Psychosis

When a person experiences a first episode of psychosis (FEP) it is often a confusing, distressing experience for the individual and their family members. Psychosis usually first appears in a person’s late teens or early twenties. Increased awareness of the signs and symptoms of psychosis promotes early detection and appropriate treatment and, in turn, more successful recovery from a psychotic episode.

The HOPE (Helping Overcome Psychosis Early) program aids individuals and their family members in navigating through a first episode of psychosis. CLM’s Child, Adolescent and Family Services and Young Adult team are specially trained and skilled at helping clients and families recognize, manage symptoms and utilize treatment approaches for success and quality of life.

What is psychosis?

The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, in which people have trouble distinguishing between what is real and what is not. When this occurs, it is called a psychotic episode. Approximately three out of 100 people will experience an episode of psychosis in their lifetime. Psychosis affects men and women equally and occurs across all cultures and socioeconomic groups.

What is a first episode of psychosis?

A first episode of psychosis is the first time a person experiences a psychotic episode. A first episode of psychosis is often very frightening and confusing, particularly because it is an unfamiliar experience. Unfortunately, there are also many negative stereotypes and misconceptions associated with psychosis that can further add to one’s distress. Psychosis is treatable. Many people recover from a first episode of psychosis and never experience another psychotic episode.

Early intervention for people experiencing psychosis has many benefits, including:

  • Reduced secondary problems, such as disruption of work, school and relationships;
  • Retention of social skills and support;
  • Less need for hospitalization;
  • More rapid recovery and better prognosis;
  • Reduced family disruption and distress;
  • Less resistance to treatment and lower risk of relapse.

What are the signs and symptoms of psychosis?

Typically, a person will show changes in his or her behavior before psychosis develops. Behavioral warning signs for psychosis include:

  • Sudden drop in grades or job performance;
  • New trouble thinking clearly or concentrating;
  • Suspiciousness, paranoid ideas, or uneasiness with others;
  • Withdrawing socially, spending a lot more time alone than usual;
  • Unusual, overly intense new ideas, strange feelings, or no feelings at all;
  • Decline in self-care or personal hygiene;
  • Difficulty telling reality from fantasy;
  • Confused speech or trouble communicating

Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear). Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsense speech and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. A person in a psychotic episode also may experience depression, anxiety, sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and difficulty functioning overall. Someone experiencing any of these symptoms should seek help with a mental health professional.

Clinicians in CLM’s Child, Adolescent and Family program are trained in recognizing FEP and utilization of multi-dimensional treatment approaches. For HOPE program referrals, questions or more information, call CLM Access to Care department at (603) 434-1577.

Download our HOPE Brochure here.