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Attenuated psychosis syndrome is a complicated mental illness that is still not completely understood by mental health professionals. Learn more about attenuated psychosis syndrome, its symptoms, and its status in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Example of Attenuated Psychosis

John is a 20-year-old art major. He has felt more and more uneasy around his friends, though he cannot pinpoint a specific reason why. On several occasions, John has had trouble separating his dreams from reality. He has become uneasy during his morning runs because he often sees shadows in the corner of his eye. He also goes off track when he speaks, and the manner in which he speaks is very confusing. After John’s best friend speaks to John about his behavior, he decides to see a psychologist. The psychologist tells John that he may be suffering from attenuated psychosis syndrome.

Attenuated Psychosis Definition

Attenuated psychosis syndrome is a mental condition that causes clinically significant distress and is distinguished by the onset of mild, psychotic-like symptoms that do not meet the full diagnostic criteria of one of the psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or delusional disorder. ‘Attenuated’ means weakened, which is why this disorder is called attenuated psychosis syndrome.People who have attenuated psychosis syndrome have a higher chance of developing an actual psychotic disorder in the future. For this reason, attenuated psychosis syndrome is also known as psychosis risk syndrome.

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It has been estimated that between 10% and 40% of individuals with attenuated psychosis disorder will eventually develop a psychotic disorder. Out of those who do go on to develop a psychotic disorder, about 75% will have either schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophreniform disorder.

Attenuated Psychosis Symptoms

John displayed many symptoms of attenuated psychosis syndrome, including suspiciousness (uneasiness around friends that was not warranted), odd beliefs (such as trouble separating dreams and reality), unusual perceptual experiences (seeing shadows), and disorganized communication (going off-track and confused speech).

Other symptoms of attenuated psychosis syndrome include:

  • Feeling that you do not have control over your mind
  • Thinking that others may have the ability to read your mind
  • Perceiving sounds as louder than usual
  • Speaking too fast or too slow
  • Using odd or confusing words when you speak
  • Feelings of superiority that cause problems with family and friend relationships

Attenuated Psychosis and the DSM

A psychotic disorder work group was tasked with determining if attenuated psychosis syndrome should be added into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The work group determined that attenuated psychosis disorder should not be a formal diagnosis. Instead, it is listed in the appendix as needing further study. Some of the reasons that the work group decided not to add attenuated psychosis syndrome as an official diagnosis include its high rate of comorbidity with other mental conditions, worries that a diagnosis of attenuated psychosis syndrome may lead to inappropriate treatments, and issues with the reliability of the proposed diagnostic criteria.

Lesson Summary

We’ve learned about attenuated psychosis syndrome, a mental condition that causes clinically significant distress and is distinguished by the onset of mild, psychotic-like symptoms that do not meet the full diagnostic criteria of one of the psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or delusional disorder. It’s also known as psychotic risk syndrome since people who have attenuated psychosis syndrome have a higher chance of developing an actual psychotic disorder in the future.

Symptoms of attenuated psychosis syndrome include confused speech, feeling that others are controlling or reading your mind, feelings of superiority, and unusual perceptual experiences. Though attenuated psychosis syndrome is not an official diagnosis, it is an area that the American Psychological Association feels warrants further study. It’s important studies move forward on this since it’s been estimated that between 10% and 40% of individuals with attenuated psychosis disorder will eventually develop a psychotic disorder.

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