WHAT IS PSYCHOSIS?
The reputation of psychosis isn't helped by the fact that the first 6 letters spell 'psycho' and all the negative connotations that it brings.
The fact is, psychosis is simply a medical term used to describe a condition that limits a person's ability to identify fact from fantasy. This means that they may see, hear or believe things that other people (without psychosis) don't.
Your mind will play tricks on you making you behave in a way that appears odd or have thoughts that are unusual. This all means that the world can seem like an incredibly confusing places (more than it normally is at least!).
Psychosis isn't a diagnosable condition in itself, but is triggered by other conditions including trauma, severe depression, schizophrenia, schizoaffective or bipolar disorder and even extreme stress. It can also occur as a result of psychical conditions like a brain tumour, Parkinson's disease or as a result of drug or alcohol misuse.
Around 1 in every 100 people will experience some kind of psychotic experience in their lifetime, although if one of your parents has it, those odds increase to 15 in every 100 (and more if they both do).
There are two main symptoms when it comes to psychosis. These are:
- Delusions; where you believe something that can't be rationally be true.
- Hallucinations; when you see, hear, smell, feel or even taste things that aren't there, such as voices.
When someone experiences one of these symptoms it becomes known as a psychotic episode.
WHAT CAUSES PSYCHOSIS?
As we mentioned above, psychosis isn't a mental illness in itself, but a consequence of other illnesses such as bipolar, schizophrenia or even severe bouts of depression. You can click any of those links to find out more about the cause of each illness.
There isn't one definitive cause of psychosis. Most experts believe it occurs as a combination of genetic factors, traumatic experiences or even complications during your birth. Also, an imbalance in brain chemistry can play a part. If you have too much dopamine, a neurotransmitter, this can lead to hallucinations and confused thinking.
The length of time and how often an episode occurs depends largely on the underlying cause. If psychosis does occur as part of bipolar disorder, episodes can occur only once. If they are more common, they usually resolve themselves over time.
Similarly with schizophrenia, whilst the condition itself can be long-term, about 25% of people only have one single episode in their lives.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
Psychosis, despite what you might think, is treatable. By using a combination of antipsychotic medication to help relieve the symptoms and either CBT (helps with schizophrenia) or family therapy to help them cope with how it affects their lives day-to-day.
People who live with psychosis may also need social support to help with things like their education, accommodation and employment needs.
If you live with psychosis, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.