Background: Knowledge of pathways to care by help-seeking patients prior to the onset of psychosis may help to improve the identification of at-risk patients. This study explored the history of help-seeking behavior in secondary mental health care services prior to the onset of the first episode of psychosis.
Method: The psychiatric case register in The Hague was used to identify a cohort of 1753 people in the age range of 18-35 at first contact who developed a psychotic disorder in the period from 1 January 2005 to 31 December 2009. We retrospectively examined the diagnoses made at first contact with psychiatric services.
Results: 985 patients (56.2%) had been treated in secondary mental health services prior to the onset of psychosis. The most common disorders were mood and anxiety disorders (N=385 (39.1%)) and substance use disorders (N=211 (21.4%)). Affective psychoses were more often preceded by mood/anxiety disorders, while psychotic disorder NOS was more often preceded by personality disorder or substance abuse. The interval between first contact and first diagnosis of psychosis was approximately 69 months in cases presenting with mood and anxiety disorders and 127 months in cases presenting with personality disorders.
Discussion: This study confirms the hypothesis that the majority of patients with psychotic disorders had been help-seeking for other mental disorders in the secondary mental health care prior to the onset of psychosis.
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