The term psychosis refers to a range of unusual experiences that a person may have. It can affect how a person thinks, feels and experiences the world. These experiences can result in difficulty telling what is real from what is not and can be quite distressing. It can have the potential to disrupt a person’s ability to concentrate and maintain life responsibilities (work, study, relationships). When someone is affected in this way they are said to be experiencing a ‘psychotic episode’.
An episode of psychosis is treatable and recovery is expected
Psychosis often starts in early adulthood and is relatively common: 3 in every 100 people will experience a psychotic episode during their lifetime, and almost anyone can be affected. Onset may be gradual (difficult to detect early on) or may occur more rapidly.
Psychosis can result in changes in:-
Perception hearing voices or other sounds; seeing things that are not apparent to others; changes in smell, taste and feel.
Thinking Thoughts may become confused; scattered or disorganised; slowed/sped up; and /or difficulty concentrating.
Beliefs Some people feel paranoid (feel like people are against them); or believe that their thoughts are influenced by others; or that they can influence the thoughts of others. They may become preoccupied with unusual ideas. They may become more or less religious/ spiritual than normal.
Mood Mood maybe depressed and withdrawn. Loss of interest in usual activities. Fluctuating mood. Mood that does not match the circumstances.
Behaviour Some people may move away from usual routines; display unusual/ different behaviours; may withdraw and isolate self from friends and family.
Physical issues These can include an alteration in sleep (e.g. day/night reversal); energy levels; appetite.
Individuals may experience one or many of these signs listed above.
Types of psychosis:
Psychosis can occur in a number of different situations.
Psychiatry has a number of different names for conditions where psychosis is present. These can include Drug Induced Psychosis, Brief Psychotic Disorder, Depression or Mania with pscyhotic features etc. Psychosis NOS refers to Psychosis Not Otherwise Specified and is often used as a diagnosis to indicate that the underlying condition is not yet clear.
Causes of psychosis:
Psychosis is thought not to be caused by one thing in isolation. The causes of psychosis vary from person to person and in some cases are not entirely clear. In Early Intervention we believe that it is possible for anybody to experience psychosis, but that people vary significantly in their vulnerability or threshold for developing psychosis.
We believe there is an interaction between stressors (e.g. significant life events; trauma; substance use) and a person’s inherent risk factors (e.g. ability to cope with these stressors or an inherited increased vulnerability).
Adverse early life experiences and an inherited risk may mean that some people develop psychosis more easily than others (lower threshold).
In general people appear to be most vulnerable to psychosis in adolescence and early adulthood.
Substances such as marijuana and other street drugs can play a part in people experiencing psychosis and can worsen psychotic symptoms or delay recovery.
Research shows that the sooner you get help the faster you recover from psychosis, and with the least disruption to your life and those around you.
Your recovery will be helped by reducing your stress levels, looking after your physical wellbeing (e.g. sleeping, eating well) and keeping away from street drugs.
Medication may form a part of your recovery and it is important to follow the advice of your treatment team closely with regard to this.
Many people find talking about what they are experiencing is helpful in making sense of what is going on and reducing their stress levels.