So, what is Psychosis?

Psychosis is something we hear a lot about, especially in the context of schizophrenia or when labelling people as ‘crazy’, or more obviously, ‘psycho’. Do you know much about what it means to experience psychosis and what a psychotic episode might involve?

Spoiler alert: it isn’t split personality disorder

Symptoms of psychosis

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disordered thinking and speech

Mental health problems linked with psychosis

A person experiencing these mental health problems may be prone to episodes of psychosis:

  • Severe depression
  • Post partum psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder

These are not the only cases in which a person may experience psychosis. Drugs, stress, bereavement, physical injury or illness, and abuse or trauma can also trigger a psychotic episode. These can be recurrent or a one off, most people who experience a psychotic episode will never have another in their lifetime.

So, what are hallucinations and delusions?

People commonly think when you hallucinate you ‘see things’, which is true. Hallucinations can be visual, auditory, or olfactory. This means you are not limited to seeing things that aren’t there, but you could hear, smell, taste, or feel something too. A common auditory hallucination is ‘hearing voices’. These can be very distressing and confusing, and it is hugely important that if someone displays these symptoms you neither contradict nor go along with it as this can add to distress and confusion.

Delusions are beliefs that do not have sound evidence or match up with society’s broader views. While most of us hold beliefs that someone else might disagree with, delusions go above and beyond this and can cause distress to the person experiencing them. Examples being that you are being tracked by the government, or that you were abducted by aliens, or that you’re a God and should be followed as such. These relate to bipolar disorder as, during episodes of mania, people can believe they are invincible or important which can sometimes put them in danger.

These symptoms are as real as anything else to people experiencing them. Imagine hearing dozens of voices that nobody else is hearing, or seeing terrifying things that aren’t really there. Now imagine trying to function on a daily basis with these symptoms. These people aren’t ‘crazy’, they’re fighting a very tough battle.

Further information

Mental health charity Mind offers lots of information on psychosis, how to look after yourself and others who are struggling.

NHS website also has information on symptoms and treatment options.

Volunteering for mental health services can also enable you to see first hand how you can support others.

-L x

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