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About psychosis

By  ReachOut     |    Updated: 23rd April, 2017    |    4 min read

Around 3 in 100 people will experience a psychotic episode, making it more common than you may think.While it sounds a bit worrying, psychosis is treatable and most people will make a full recovery. Find out what psychosis is and its causes, the symptoms of psychosis, the types of psychosis and what you can do if you experience it.

 Signs this may be a problem:

  • You’re seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • You’re believing things which most people believe aren’t true
  • You’ve experienced having jumbled and mixed up speech

What is psychosis?

Psychosis is when someone experiences an ‘altered reality’, which means that they’ve lost touch with everyone else’s interpretation of what is going on around them. Psychosis is most likely to occur in young adults and is quite common, with around 2 in 100 young people experiencing a psychotic episode. Most make a full recovery from an episode .

The cause of psychosis isn’t really understood, but its onset can be related to a number of factors:

  • Family history. If a family member experiences a psychotic episode you may be at higher risk.
  • Stressful events. Particularly for people who suffer from disorders like schizophreniabipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder, a stressful event can trigger a psychotic episode.
  • Drugs. Hallucinogenic drugsamphetamines and cannabis can trigger psychotic episodes. Usually drugs need to be taken in high amounts over a long period of time to trigger psychosis, but if you have a family history of mental illness they should be avoided.

Signs and symptoms of psychosis

The symptoms of psychosis are known as ‘positive symptoms’. Positive symptoms are perceptions, thoughts and behaviours that are not experienced in the general population. Examples of symptoms include:

  • Thought disorder. Things like confused thinking, having difficulty concentrating, following conversations or remembering stuff.
  • Delusions. Thinking things are happening that aren’t, e.g. believing you’re being watched or followed or feeling like you have special abilities or powers.
  • Hallucinations. Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting experiences that aren’t actually happening. These feelings can be quite intense.
  • Mood swings or changes in how you’re feeling.
  • Inappropriate behaviours. For example, laughing at sad news or becoming particularly upset or angry without cause.

Types of psychosis

While psychotic episodes are usually diagnosed as being a certain ‘type’ of psychosis, everyone’s experience of psychosis is different. This means that a diagnosis isn’t set in stone, and professionals treating the symptoms will review and change the diagnosis if necessary.

Diagnoses include:

  • Schizophrenia– the disorder in which psychosis is most commonly featured
  • Schizophreniform disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Drug intoxication
  • Delusional disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression with psychotic features
  • Brief reactive psychosis

The type of psychosis a person is diagnosed with depends on their symptoms, the cause, and how long the symptoms last.

What to do about it?

Psychosis is treatable. The most effective form of treatment involves using a combination of medication and therapeutic support (like counselling), so professional help is necessary. It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of psychosis, it’s a good idea to visit your GP – professional help will make diagnosing and managing your symptoms much quicker and easier. Psychosis is much easier to manage if it is treated by a professional in its early stages.

What can I do now?

Also check the related topics:  

Psychosis and other mental illnesses

Factsheet provided by ReachOut

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