Early Warning Signs



Pediatricians, family physicians, general practitioners, school teachers and counselors, and ministers are often the professionals who identify the first signs early enough to allow us to prevent the onset of full-blown psychosis. Psychiatrists see these young people when psychotic illness is already well established, and prevention is no longer possible.

Please call us for a consultation (1-925-681-4450) if your patient/client/student shows any combination of the following early warning signs and symptoms:

Changes in behavior, thoughts and emotions, such as:

  • Feeling something’s not quite right, without another explanation
  • Heightened perceptual sensitivity to light, noise, touch, interpersonal distance
  • Unusual perceptual experiences, fleeting apparitions, odd sounds, frank hallucinations
  • Unusual fears and suspicions, avoidance of perceived bodily harm, fear of assault (not social anxiety), hypervigilance
  • Disorganized or digressive speech, jumbled thoughts and confusion, receptive and expressive aphasia
  • Newly emerging, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior or preoccupations, unpredictability, bizarre appearance
  • Reduced emotional or social responsiveness, sadness, alogia, anergia, aphasia, memory difficulties
  • Decreasing performance at school or work without another explanation or diagnosis • Declining interest in people, activities and self-care.

Some helpful questions to ask:

  • “Have your eyes and ears been playing tricks on you recently?”
  • “Are you finding yourself withdrawing from friends, activities and hobbies?”
  • “Are sounds getting louder or lights seeming brighter?”
  • “Does it feel like it’s harder to concentrate or to express yourself, harder to filter out irrelevant and distracting stimuli in your environment?”
  • “Are you feeling others may be staring at you or having hostile thoughts about you for no particular reason?”
  • “Does it feel like your thoughts or actions are being controlled by others at times or that you're getting messages from the environment that others may not perceive?”

EWS Resources

Getting help Early

Getting early help when you or someone you know might be experiencing psychosis is really important. Psychosis can be distressing, so limiting the time people experience it is important. Getting help early not only reduces the distress people experience, it also reduces the chances of having another psychotic episode. It reduces the disruption in people’s lives so they are more likely to be able to carry on working or going to school and find it easier to carry on with their social life.
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