Positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia as correlates of help-seeking behaviour and the duration of untreated psychosis in south-east Nigeria

Paul Chigozie Odinka, A C Ndukuba, R C Muomah, M Oche, M U Osika, M O Bakare, A O Agomoh, R Uwakwe


Background. Duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) has been widely recognised in recent years as a potentially important predictor of illness outcome, and the manifestations of schizophrenia have been known to influence its early recognition as a mental illness. 

Objective. To assess the association between the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, help-seeking and DUP. 

Methods. We performed a cross-sectional study of 360 patients with schizophrenia, who had had no previous contact with Western mental health services. The Sociodemographic Questionnaire, World Health Organization Pathway Encounter Form and a questionnaire to establish DUP were used. The positive and negative syndrome scale and Composite International Diagnostic Interview were used for the assessment of mental disorders and to diagnose.

Results. Respondents who had predominant positive symptoms and who had a median DUP of 8 weeks or 24 weeks, tended to use psychiatric hospitals and other Western medical facilities, respectively, as their first treatment options. However, those who had predominant negative symptoms and who had a median DUP of 144 weeks or 310 weeks, tended to use faith healers and traditional healers, respectively, as first treatment options.

Conclusion. The predominance of negative symptoms could militate against early presentation among people with schizophrenia, probably because negative symptoms are poorly recognised as indicating mental illness in Nigeria, as they could be interpreted as deviant behaviour or spiritual problems that would require spiritual solutions.


Symptoms; Perceptions; Schizophrenia; Help-seeking; Duration of Untreated Psychosis; South-east Nigeria

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v20i4.536

Submitted: 26 November 2013
Published: 30 November 2014

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)