ARMS stands for ‘at risk mental state’ and is a term used to describe people who are at a high risk of developing psychosis. The aim of identifying people with ARMS is to provide intervention as early as possible in order to decrease the severity of any psychotic illness that does occur and/or decrease the likelihood of one developing. Early Intervention in Psychosis services are more and more taking on people who have an ARMS. Sometime the terms ‘prodromal psychosis’ or “prodrome” are used interchangeable with ARMS, though there are subtle differences.
Who has an ARMS?
People are deemed to have an at risk mental state if they don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for any psychotic disorder but show the following signs:
- Unexplained distress and agitation
- Are within the age range when psychotic symptoms are most likely to occur
- Recent decline in social functioning (e.g. social isolation)
- A strong family history of psychosis
- Very mild or brief (transient) psychotic symptoms
- Having associated conditions such as Schizotypal Personality Disorder
What can be done to treat people with an ARMS?
- CBT for psychosis has been shown to be very helpful in decreasing both distress and the number of people going on to develop a psychotic disorder.
- Integrated therapies or counselling
- Sometime it’s deemed appropriate to start an antipsychotic medication early on in order to prevent psychosis occurring.
I think ARMS is an interesting development in the world of mental health and it poses a number of questions. Like is it possible to identify risk factors for other disorders? Could we be looking out for early markers for mood and anxiety disorders also? Also, although this approach allows for early detection, something that’s of particular importance with psychosis due to the cognitive decline linked to it, is it right to start people who may never develop psychosis on potent medications like antipsychotics?
I hope this has been helpful. What do you think about ARMS?