Background: To examine psychopathology present under prolonged antipsychotic treatment in schizophrenia and to analyse their relationship to both the duration of the prodromal stage (DPS; time between onset of first unspecific psychological symptoms and first schizophrenic symptoms) and the duration of untreated psychosis (DUP; time between the onset of psychosis and the initiation of antipsychotic treatment). Methods: The psychopathology of 93 patients was assessed cross-sectionally using the Scales for the Assessment of Negative and Positive Symptoms and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. DPS and DUP were assessed by means of the patient records and the Interview for the Retrospective Assessment of the Onset and Course of Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses. A path analysis using maximum likelihood estimation was conducted with the program Analysis of Moment Structures for Windows. Results: The resulting path model indicated that DPS was predictive for a more severe negative symptomatology in schizophrenia, whereas DUP was associated with a more severe positive symptomatology in the long-term. Furthermore, DUP showed an inverse correlation with the age of the patients at the onset of both first unspecific psychological symptoms and first schizophrenic symptoms. Conclusion: A long prodromal stage suggests an increased risk of a long-term progression with negative symptoms in schizophrenia, whereas a delayed start of antipsychotic treatment could lead to an increased manifestation and severity of positive symptoms in the long term. These results underline the need to shorten the duration of the prodrome by an early detection and adequate intervention in patients with increased risk to develop psychosis.

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