Background: The literature suggests that the early course of schizophrenia is a strong predictor of long-term outcome. We sought to test this notion in a sample of first-episode patients. Sampling and Methods: Forty patients with a first episode of DSM-IV diagnoses of schizophrenia, schizoaffective, or schizophreniform disorder were assessed with well-established instruments such as the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and the Strauss-Carpenter Scale. Reassessment was performed 14 months later and included the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale in addition to the aforementioned instruments and a psychiatric interview. Regression analyses for the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale and symptomatology were used to identify outcome predictors. Results: At follow-up, 27 patients (67.5%) were in remission. Women’s outcome was significantly better with respect to intimate relationships and domiciliary independence. Although symptomatology of the whole group remained stable during the follow-up period, a subgroup of patients experienced a significant decrease in symptom levels whereas symptoms increased in another subgroup. The most important predictor of outcome was compliance with atypical antipsychotic medication during the follow-up period. Conclusions: These results suggest that there is a prognostic divide early in the course of the disease, that compliance with medication is of overriding importance towards 1-year outcome, and that for the individual patient the question of chronicity may be answered very early in the course of the disease.
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