Importance of Early Detection
Many psychiatric conditions have been rooted in the early stages of life. The chronicity and morbidity vary among disorders. Disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, disordered eating and autism spectrum have been known to be chronic conditions. The influence of early life is also evident when working with individuals with difficulty regulating emotions such as anger; forming and sustaining friendships and intimate relationships; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and substance abuse. Hence, the early detection and treatment may result in a better prognosis and functional outcome in adult life.
For chronic conditions such as psychosis and mood disorders, research has shown that many people first present signs of their illness between the ages of 12 and 17 years. This has been suggested to be a window of opportunity for treatment that could dramatically alter a person’s life for the better. Intervening early can interrupt the negative course of some mental illnesses and in some cases, may lessen long-term disability. Recent developments on the brain indicates that longer periods of maladaptive and dysfunctional thoughts and behavior have cumulative effects and, can influence the capacity for recovery.
Without intervention, childhood disorders frequently continue into adulthood. Severity and challenges to recovery for conditions such as psychosis appears to increase with each episode. Since children develop rapidly, delivering mental health services early is necessary to avoid permanent consequences and to ensure that children are ready for school and their upcoming adult life.
Overall, early detection and intervention aims to reduce the dependency and disabilities associated with mental illnesses during one’s adult years. Early and reliable recognition and the provision of effective treatments and care assist in maintaining optimal functioning, reducing the likelihood of family, social and work disruption. During the early phase of illness, risk factors are identified and, strategies determined to support recovery and well-being are implemented.
Written by Dr Sanveen Kang-Sadhnani