Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder (Among Others) Get Worse When They Aren't Treated Early


Did you know that some mental illnesses get worse if they aren’t treated early?

Studies on Schizophrenia show that early intervention is key for minimizing the long term severity of the illness. Schizophrenia early intervention programs have popped up around the US, responding to research showing that early intervention improves outcomes. But even in early intervention models, treatment can be delayed for months.

And Bipolar Disorder is subject to something called a “kindling effect.” This means that each severe episode advances the illness, and makes future symptoms and episodes worse.

Treating serious mental illness early changes the course of illness. Providing early treatment may mean living a normal life, while delaying treatment can lead to a lifelong battle with mental illness.

Despite the well known risk for worsening long term outcomes, wait times for mental health appointments are months out, and have been growing longer for several years. Long waits worsen the health of individuals and the health of the whole population over time.

Psychiatry has not kept up with the times, and has not sufficiently changed to meet the growing need for psychiatric early intervention over the past few decades. Now patients with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar mania may seek treatment with a primary care doctor, and wait 6 months to see a specialist.

This is one of many reasons I practice urgent care psychiatry. Urgent care psychiatry focuses on early specialty care, and the referral for ongoing treatment with primary care for milder cases, or with a specialist for complex cases.

Stabilizing psychiatric symptoms early improves lives and communities.

Posted on April 15, 2019 .