Stopping the Switch to Schizophrenia

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps some patients at risk for schizophrenia avoid psychosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Schizophrenia often does not suddenly turn on like a switch. There are usually early symptoms before a person reaches full psychosis. But how do you stop what's coming?

A recent study tried to see if a specific type of therapy might help prevent patients from developing schizophrenia.

The treatment studied was cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The authors found this therapy did help prevent some patients from developing a full-blown disorder.

The therapy also helped some patients recover from being at risk for schizophrenia.

"Ask about cognitive behavioral therapy."

The study, led by Mark van deer Gaag, of the Department of Clinical Psychology at Vu University in Amsterdam, involved 201 patients at "ultrahigh risk" for developing psychosis. The patients, from four different sites, were randomly split into two groups. One group underwent cognitive behavioral therapy plus treatment as usual. The other group received only treatment as usual.

CBT has been used to successfully treat a range of mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and addictions.

It aims to help individuals address the thought processes that lead to their emotions and behaviors. During CBT, patients learn which thought patterns they have that are unproductive, and they learn ways to "retrain" their thought processes.

They work with the therapist to develop goals related to thinking about things differently. This leads to more stability in their emotions and more of a sense of control over their behavior.

The CBT group received the therapy for six months. All the patients in both groups were then tracked for 18 months to see how they did. Among those undergoing CBT, 10 patients developed full psychosis, compared to 22 in the group receiving only treatment as usual.

Therefore cognitive behavioral therapy did appear to effectively prevent patients from developing full psychosis.

The researchers calculated for every nine patients who receive CBT, the treatment will prevent one from transitioning to schizophrenia.

In addition, when the researchers follow up with the study participants a year and a half later, more of the patients in the CBT group no longer met the criteria for being at high risk of developing psychosis. For every seven patients receiving CBT with treatment as usual, the researchers calculated, one patient would become healthy enough to no longer be classified as at high risk for psychosis.

The study was published in the December issue of the Schizophrenia Bulletin. The research was funded by the Netherlands Health Research Council. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 5, 2012
Last Updated:
December 10, 2012