Negative symptoms (NS) severely interfere with real-world performance, already at the onset of schizophrenia and in "clinical high risk" mental states. However, most of the empirical studies specifically examining treatment effectiveness on NS included patients with stable, prolonged schizophrenia. Moreover, research on psychosocial interventions for NS in early schizophrenia is still relatively scarce. Thus, the aims of this study were (1) to longitudinally monitor the NS stability in young individuals with First Episode Schizophrenia (FES) across a 2-year follow-up period, and (2) to investigate any significant association of NS with functioning, other aspects of FES psychopathology and the specific treatment component effects on NS of an "Early Intervention in Psychosis" (EIP) program during the 2years of follow-up. At entry, 159 FES participants (aged 12-35years) completed the Positive And Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF). Spearman's correlations and multiple linear regression analyses were performed. NS had relevant enduring associations with PANSS disorganization scores and GAF functioning decline. Across the follow-up, FES individuals showed a significant improvement in NS levels. This was specifically associated with the number of individual psychotherapy and intensive case management sessions provided during the 2years of our EIP program, as well as with the antipsychotic dosage at entry. NS are clinically relevant in FES, already at the enrollment in specialized EIP services. However, their clinical severity seems to decrease over time, together with the delivery of specific, patient-tailored EIP interventions.

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