Understanding the experience of individuals across stages of schizophrenia is important for development of services to promote recovery. As yet, little is known about the experience of individuals who exhibit prodromal symptoms of schizophrenia.
Audiotaped interviews were conducted with 27 participants of diverse racial-ethnic backgrounds who were at clinically high risk of psychosis (15 males and 12 females; mean age 21). Phenomenological qualitative research techniques of coding, consensus, and comparison were used.
Emergent themes differed by gender. Themes for males were feeling abnormal or “broken,” focus on going “crazy,” fantasy and escapism, and alienation and despair, with a desire for relationships. Themes for females were psychotic illness among family members, personal trauma, struggle with intimate relationships, and career and personal development.
The finding of relative social engagement and future orientation of females identified as at risk for psychosis is novel and has implications for outreach and treatment.