What is psychosis?
Psychosis is characterized by an impaired
relationship with reality. And it is a symptom of serious mental disorders. People
who are psychotic may have either hallucinations or delusions.
Hallucinations are sensory experiences that
occur within the absence of an actual stimulus. For example, a person having an
auditory hallucination may hear their mother yelling at them when their mother isn’t
around. Or someone having a visual hallucination may see something, like a
person in front of them, who isn’t actually there.
The person experiencing psychosis may also
have thoughts that are contrary to actual evidence. These thoughts are known as
delusions. Some people with psychosis may also experience loss of motivation
and social withdrawal.
These experiences can be frightening. They
may also cause people who are experiencing psychosis to hurt themselves or
others. It is important to see a doctor right away if you or someone you know
is experiencing symptoms of psychosis.
Recognizing the symptoms of psychosis
Symptoms of psychosis include:
- difficulty concentrating
- depressed mood
- sleeping too much or not enough
- withdrawal from family and
- disorganized speech, such as switching
- suicidal thoughts or actions
What are delusions and hallucinations?
Delusions and hallucinations are two very
different symptoms that are both often experienced by people with psychosis. Delusions
and hallucinations seem real to the person who is experiencing them.
A delusion is a false belief or impression
that is firmly held even though it is contradicted by reality and what is
commonly considered true. There are delusions of paranoia, grandiose delusions,
and somatic delusions.
People who are experiencing a delusion of paranoia might think that they are
being followed when they are not, or that secret messages are being sent to
them. Someone with a grandiose delusion
will have an exaggerated sense of importance. Somatic
delusion is when a person believes they have a terminal illness
when in reality they are healthy.
A hallucination is a sensory perception in
the absence of outside stimuli. That means seeing, hearing, feeling, or
smelling something that isn’t present. A person who is hallucinating might see
things that don’t exist or hear people talking when they are alone.
Causes of psychosis
Each case of psychosis is different, and the
exact cause is not always clear. There are, however, certain illnesses that
cause psychosis. There are also triggers like drug use, lack of sleep, and
other environmental factors. In addition, certain situations can lead to
specific types of psychosis to develop.
Illnesses that can cause psychosis include:
- brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease,
and some chromosomal disorders
- brain tumors or cysts
some types of dementia may cause psychosis, such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- HIV, syphilis, and other infections that attack the brain
- some types of epilepsy
Risk factors for developing psychosis
It’s not currently possible to precisely
identify who is likely to develop psychosis. However, research has shown that
genetics may play a role.
People are more likely to develop a psychotic
disorder if they have a close family member, such as a parent or sibling who
has a psychotic disorder.
Children born with the genetic mutation known
deletion syndrome are at risk for developing a psychotic disorder,
Types of psychosis
Some kinds of psychosis are brought on by
specific conditions or circumstances that include the following:
Brief psychotic disorder
Brief psychotic disorder, sometimes called
brief reactive psychosis, can occur during periods of extreme personal stress
like the death of a family member. Someone experiencing brief reactive
psychosis will generally recover in a few days to a few weeks, depending on the
source of the stress.
Drug- or alcohol-related
Psychosis can be triggered by the use of
alcohol and illegal drugs, including stimulants such as methamphetamine and
cocaine. Hallucinogenic drugs like LSD often cause users to see things that are
not really there, but this effect is temporary. Some prescription drugs like
steroids and stimulants can also cause symptoms of psychosis
People who are addicted to alcohol and
certain drugs can experience psychotic symptoms if they suddenly stop drinking
or taking the drug to which they are addicted.
A head injury or an illness or infection that
affects the brain can cause symptoms of psychosis.
Psychotic disorders can be triggered by
stress, drug or alcohol use, injury, or illness. They can also appear on their
own. The following types of disorders may have psychotic symptoms:
When someone has bipolar disorder, their
moods swing from very high to very low. When their mood is high and positive, they
may have symptoms of psychosis. They may feel extremely good and believe they
have special powers.
When their mood is depressed, the individual
may have psychotic symptoms that make them feel angry, sad, or frightened.
These symptoms include thinking someone is trying to harm them.
A person experiencing delusional disorder
strongly believes in things that are not real.
This is major depression with psychotic
Schizophrenia is a lifelong disease that is
generally accompanied by psychotic symptoms.
How is psychosis diagnosed?
Psychosis is diagnosed through a psychiatric
evaluation. That means a doctor will watch the person’s behavior and ask
questions about what they are experiencing. Medical tests and X-rays may be
used to determine whether there is an underlying illness causing the symptoms.
Diagnosing psychosis in children and teenagers
Many of the symptoms of psychosis in adults
are not symptoms of psychosis in young people. For example, small children
often have imaginary friends with whom they talk. This just represents imaginative
play, which is completely normal for children.
But if you are worried about psychosis in a
child or adolescent, describe their behavior to a doctor.
Treatment of psychosis
Treating psychosis may involve a combination
of medications and therapy. Most people will experience an improvement in their
symptoms with treatment.
Sometimes people experiencing psychosis can
become agitated and be at risk of hurting themselves or others. In these cases,
it may be necessary to calm them down quickly. This method is called rapid tranquilization. A doctor or emergency response
personnel will administer a fast acting shot or liquid medicine to quickly
relax the patient.
Drugs and medication
Symptoms of psychosis can be controlled with
medications called antipsychotics.
These medicines reduce hallucinations and delusions and help people think more
clearly. The type of medicine that is prescribed will depend on the symptoms.
In many cases, people only need to take
antipsychotics for a short time to get their symptoms under control. People
with schizophrenia may have to stay on medications for life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy means meeting
regularly to talk with a mental health counselor with the goal of changing
thinking and behaviors. This approach has been shown to be effective in helping
people make permanent changes and more effectively manage their illness. It is
often most helpful for psychotic symptoms that don’t completely resolve with
Complications and outlook of psychosis
Psychosis does not have many medical
complications. However, if left untreated, it can be challenging for people experiencing
psychosis to take good care of themselves. That could cause other illnesses to
who experience psychosis will recover with proper treatment. Even in severe
cases, medication and therapy can help.