Identity in the context of early psychosis: A narrative review of recent research.



S. Ben-David, D. Kealy

Aim: The emergence of psychosis symptoms most frequently occurs during adolescence and young adulthood, a period of development in which identity is developed and consolidated. Identity may thus be a salient concern in the experience and treatment of early-stage psychosis. The present narrative review was developed to survey and synthesize recent research examining identity in the context of early psychosis, in order to outline the present state of knowledge and inform clinical and future research considerations.

Methods: A systematic search obtained 971 reports pertaining to identity and psychosis among youth and young adults in the early stages of psychosis between the years 2007-2019. After screening the abstracts, 81 studies were reviewed, and 17 articles met inclusion criteria. Studies were reviewed and coded with regard to major themes and findings by both authors.

Results: The majority of the studies utilized qualitative methodology, and more than half were conducted in Canada. Three themes emerged from the findings. The first theme indicated that the onset of psychosis led to a disruption to personal identity posed by psychosis symptoms and the diagnosis of mental illness. The second theme suggested that identity difficulties may confer additional mental health risks among youth in the early stages of psychosis such as depression and suicidality. Third, many young people with psychosis indicated the importance of restoring their personal identity, as distinct from their illness, during the recovery phase.

Conclusions: Identity-related concerns were found to be an important aspect of young people’s experience in the early stages of psychosis. Further research is needed to determine the potential for clinical interventions to support and enhance identity within early psychosis care.

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