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Psychotic Symptoms | Understanding What Psychosis Is

What is psychosis?

The word psychosis is used to describe disorders that affect the mind, in which some contact with reality has been lost. When someone become ill in this way, it is called a psychotic episode. During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are altered, and they may have difficulty understanding what is and what is not real. Who gets psychosis? Psychosis can affect people from all work of life. The disorder often begins between the late teens and early 25s. In the United States, there are about 100,000 new cases of psychosis each year.

What are the signs and symptoms of psychosis?

Usually there will be changes in a person’s behaviour before psychosis occurs. Behavioural warning signs of psychosis include:

  • a sudden drop in grades or job performance;
  • new problems thinking clearly or concentrating;
  • mistrust, paranoid ideas or discomfort in front of other people;
  • social isolation, spending much more time alone than usual;
  • unusual and overly intense new ideas, strange feelings, or a total lack of feelings;
  • less attention to personal care or hygiene;
  • Difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy;
  • confused speech or trouble communicating.
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Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others cannot see or hear). Other symptoms include speaking incoherent or nonsensical and behaving in a way that is inappropriate for the situation you are in. During a psychotic episode, the person may also experience depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and, in general, difficulty functioning.

Anyone experiencing any of the symptoms on this list should consult a mental health professional.


What Causes Psychosis?

There is no specific cause for psychosis and it can be a symptom of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. However, a person can experience psychosis without ever being diagnosed with schizophrenia or any other mental disorder. There are other causes, such as lack of sleep, general medical conditions, certain prescription drugs, and the misuse of alcohol or other drugs, such as marijuana. A mental illness, such as schizophrenia, is usually diagnosed by excluding all these other causes of psychosis. To undergo a thorough evaluation and an accurate diagnosis, visit a competent healthcare professional (such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker).


How is psychosis treated?

Some studies have shown that it is not uncommon for a person to have psychotic symptoms for more than a year before receiving treatment. It is essential to reduce this period of time without treating psychosis because early treatment often means that there will be a better recovery. A competent psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker will be able to make a diagnosis and help establish a treatment plan.

People with psychosis can behave in a confused and unpredictable way and can also become threatening or violent. However, people with psychotic symptoms are more likely to harm themselves than other people. If you notice these behaviour changes and they begin to intensify or do not go away, it is important to seek help.

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Research supports a variety of treatments for early psychosis, especially coordinated in specialty care. In 2008, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) launched a research initiative called Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode [RAISE]. The RAISE project studied coordinated specialty care treatments and the best ways to intervene after people begin to experience psychotic symptoms and to help them get back on track to a productive and independent life. Coordinated specialty care includes the following components:

  • The individual or group psychotherapy , which is generally based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. This therapy is tailored to the needs of each patient and emphasizes training for resilience, disease control and well-being, and the development of coping skills.
  • The family support and education , to teach family aspects of psychosis and coping skills, communication and problem solving. Family members who are informed and involved are better prepared to help their loved ones in the recovery process.
  • The managing medications (also called pharmacotherapy), which helps reduce the symptoms of psychosis. Both the selection and the dosage of drugs are adapted to the patients with early psychosis and their individual needs. Like all medications, antipsychotics have risks and benefits. Patients should talk to their healthcare providers about side effects, drug costs, and dosage preferences (one pill daily or one injection monthly).
  • Support services for employment and education , which help patients return to work or school and achieve their personal goals. Emphasis is placed on rapid placement in a work or school setting, along with training and support, to ensure success.
  • The case management that helps patients to solve problems. The case manager can offer solutions to address practical problems and coordinate social services in various areas of need.

People with psychosis should be involved in planning their treatment. Your needs and goals should be what drives your treatment programs. This will help them stay committed throughout the recovery process.

It is important to find a mental health professional who is trained in treating psychosis and who will make the patient feel comfortable.


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