Anxiety in youth at clinical high risk for psychosis: A case study and conceptual model

Schizophr Res. 2019 Jun;208:441-446. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2019.01.006. Epub 2019 Jan 14.


Some individuals identified as being at clinical high risk (CHR) for developing psychosis may suffer substantial anxiety due to a fear of transitioning to psychosis. This can be associated with catastrophic misinterpretation of normal mental experiences, such as a momentary lapse in attention, as markers for psychosis, fueled by hypervigilance for mental experiences that may be perceived as signs of impending psychosis. This anxiety may only worsen due to the self-stigma triggered by admission to a psychiatric CHR clinic, independent of whether or not the individual transitions to psychosis. Based on a clinical case study, we propose a cognitive model for this anxiety, an extension of Clark's model of panic. Our model accounts for causal factors of this distress, such as self-stigma and maladaptive core beliefs. It also includes maintaining factors such as hypervigilance for mental experiences and catastrophic misinterpretation of normal mental experiences as anomalous and portending eventual psychosis. We outline assessment and treatment guidelines and offer suggestions for how this model could be empirically validated. We suggest that treatment with this model, under the neural diathesis-stress framework, may have the potential to lower the risk of transition to psychosis and that assessment for such anxiety should be part of standard CHR care.

Keywords: Anxiety; CBT for psychosis; CHR; Clinical high risk for psychosis; Self-stigma; Stigma stress.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Prodromal Symptoms*
  • Psychotic Disorders / prevention & control
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Risk
  • Self Concept
  • Social Stigma*
  • Young Adult