Labels do matter! An Experimental Vignette Study of the Effect of Labeling Versus Symptom Severity on Public Attitudes toward Individuals at Risk for Psychosis.

Poster C109, Saturday, October 22, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, Le Baron

Danny Koren1, Shulamit Radin-Gilboa1, Yulia Libas1; 1Psychology Department, University of Haifa

Background: While there is a wide consensus regarding the potential benefits that early detection and intervention in clinical high-risk states for psychosis might offer, inclusion of an official psychosis risk diagnosis in the DSM raises serious concerns regarding the iatrogenic stigmatizing effect that a diagnostic label of this kind might have on patients, families and institutions. The goal of this talk is to introduce the notion that replacing “psychosis risk” with a diagnostic label that relates to universal aspects of human mentation has the potential to address these concerns, and present pilot data that provide preliminary support for its validity. Method: A random sample of 125 adults from the general population read an experimental vignette describing a young adolescent experiencing either mild or severe prodromal symptoms who was randomly assigned a ‘psychosis-risk’ or ‘high-risk reality testing’ diagnostic label, and answered questions about stigma, hope, and need for care toward the individual in the vignette. Results: Compared with the ‘psychosis risk’ label, ‘high-risk reality testing’ elicited significantly higher appraisals of self-image, hope, likelihood of seeking help, and need for care. No similar effects were found for symptom severity. Discussion: These pilot results provide first empirical support for the social and clinical potential of ‘high-risk health’ formulations in minimizing the potential stigmatizing harms of ‘at-risk’ diagnostic labels and improving help-seeking behaviors. As a result, they lay the theoretical and methodological foundation for future studies that will replicate and extend the above findings among individuals at high risk and their families.

Topic Area: Ultra High Risk / Prodromal Research

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