Psychosis

Introduction

The word psychosis is used to describe when a person loses some contact with reality.

You may experience unusual or distressing perceptions such as hallucinations or delusions. These may be accompanied by a reduced ability to cope with usual day-to-day activities and routines. Someone who has these unusual experiences is described as having an episode of psychosis.

Psychosis is most likely to occur in young adults in their twenties and can affect anyone including men and women from all walks of life. It is quite common and approximately four out of every hundred people will experience a psychotic episode at some time in their lives. However, most people make a full recovery from the experience.

Psychosis can have an influence on the following:

  • Perception – seeing, understanding and interpreting reality
  • Cognition – thinking processes, logical progression of thoughts, ideas and memories e.g. believing that you are being followed
  • Mood – emotions, sadness, anxiety, depression, feeling detached or extremely low
  • Personality – sense of self and identity e.g. feeling you are not really yourself
  • Behaviour – actions and responses. Sometimes a person will feel they are no longer in control of their own thoughts
  • Movement – gestures, involuntary body movements

Each person that develops psychosis will have their own unique set of symptoms and experiences.  These will vary depending on their circumstances.  In general, there are three main symptoms associated with a psychotic episode

Symptoms of Psychosis

  • Hallucinations - where someone sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels things that don't exist outside their mind
  • Delusions - where a person has an unshakeable belief in something untrue
  • Confused and disturbed thoughts

Cause of Psychosis

Sometimes psychosis is caused by a specific mental health condition:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Severe depression

Psychosis can also be triggered by events:

  • A traumatic experience
  • Stress
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Drug misuse
  • Side effects from a prescribed medicine
  • A physical condition, for example, a brain tumour

Treatments for Psychosis

The treatment is usually a combination of medicine and psychological therapies. If the symptoms are severe then it is likely the person will be admitted to a mental health hospital.

Medication for Psychosis

Anti-psychotic medication may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms. Your consultant may also prescribe antidepressants or mood stabilisers, if you experience mood based symptoms. Your consultant will discuss their recommendations with you and explain any side effects that you may experience.

Therapy Approach for Psychosis

Talking therapies can help you understand your experiences. Your consultant may refer you to a therapist who you will see on a 1:1 basis  They may offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  This helps by examining the way you feel about a situation, how you act based on your thoughts and how thinking and behaviour together influence how you feel. This has proved to be successful in treating psychosis.

Outcomes

Research has shown that early treatment combining medication, CBT and family support reduces the risk of further episodes.

If you are concerned about a family member or friend who may be a risk to themselves or others you should take them to the Emergency Department of their local hospital, or call for an ambulance. They may require a Mental Health Act Assessment. They can be detained (often called sectioned) under the Mental Health Act and will likely be admitted to hospital.

Find a clinician for help with psychosis

In order to see one of our clinicians, patients first need to obtain a GP referral.

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