Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
Psychosis is a severe group of symptoms that affects a person’s perceptions of reality and should be treated as soon as possible. In this article, you will learn about what can be done to manage psychotic symptoms and find relief for the disorders that can cause them through different treatments for psychosis.
What Is Psychosis?
Contrary to popular belief, psychosis is not a mental disorder in itself; rather, it is a term to describe specific symptoms that affect the way a person thinks and behaves.
Psychotic symptoms can include:
- Delusions: false beliefs that can’t be let go, despite what evidence or reality might suggest (i.e., believing that they are a deity or have special powers)
- Hallucinations: seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t actually there
- Incoherent speech: saying things that are unrelated or inappropriate to what is currently being discussed
Due to these symptoms, the patient with psychosis can seem disconnected from reality, and they can struggle to figure out what is real or not.
There are many possible causes for psychosis, including but not limited to trauma and stress, substance use, bipolar disorder, and, most notably, schizophrenia. Even sleep deprivation can cause someone to have a psychotic episode.
Psychosis is also not necessarily a permanent state of mind, and it can be episodic, but in some disorders, like schizophrenia, it can be persistent.
Does this mean can psychosis be cured in some cases? Yes, depending on what causes the symptoms, some people are able to treat them and never have another episode.
However, regardless if it’s temporary psychosis or not, it is something that needs to be treated as soon as possible, and as you continue to read, you will learn more about how to treat psychosis and keep symptoms under control.
- Antipsychotic Medication
The primary method of addressing psychosis is through antipsychotic medication, which can be taken orally or injected.
Other than how they are consumed; antipsychotics can be grouped into two groups: first-generation antipsychotics and second-generation antipsychotics.
First-generation antipsychotics were first introduced in the 1950s, whereas second-generation ones appeared in the 1990s.
The newer antipsychotics haven’t made the earlier ones obsolete, and first-generation antipsychotics are still prescribed to patients.
The main difference between them is the types of side-effects that can vary between them. Side-effects can be severe, so one of the main goals in treating psychosis is to find a dose that is effective while simultaneously minimizing the risk of side-effects.
Antipsychotics work by regulating the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has several different functions, and it’s most notably known for its role in the reward pathways.
However, too much dopamine can be problematic, and it’s believed that it is the primary reason for the development of psychotic symptoms.
When someone takes an antipsychotic, it inhibits the D2 receptors, and this can block the motivation salience of stimuli, both internally and externally. When there is too much dopamine, it can cause excessive motivation salience, and when it affects their perceptions and memories, it is hypothesized that this is what causes hallucinations in psychotic episodes. 
These medications will always require a prescription from a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist who is experienced in treating people with psychosis from various mental health disorders, like bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophrenia.
Like antidepressants, which tend to affect serotonin and/or norepinephrine depending on the drug, meds for psychosis can take several weeks to get a person’s dopamine levels normal and take full effect.
Therefore, the antipsychotic medication should never be discontinued abruptly if the desired results aren’t there or the side-effects are unbearable. Medication management is often necessary for the treatment of psychosis, and consulting with your doctor or psychiatrist will be important if you need to try a different brand or type of antipsychotic or change the dosage to something that’s effective and more tolerable.
Unlike medication, therapy for psychosis won’t make the symptoms go away, but it can make it easier to learn how to cope with the symptoms.
Since psychosis affects the way a person thinks or perceives the world around them, there are different types of therapies that can help people recognize the thoughts that they are having and what causes them distress and find healthier ways of responding to them.
In fact, this is the primary goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which can be used to treat several mental health disorders, and it has also been adapted to help people dealing with psychosis.
When people experience delusions and hallucinations, it can affect a person’s mood and also be impairing, reducing their ability to function overall.
The goal of therapy isn’t to try to change a person’s sense of reality and eliminate the psychotic symptoms; rather, it offers ways to make them less stressful and damaging by changing the way they respond to them.  When combined with medication, therapy can significantly help improve people’s success in managing psychosis and preventing subsequent episodes.
- Family Intervention
Psychosis isn’t just stressful for the patients, however, and loved ones of someone who is struggling can also be affected by it too. Family therapy can be an excellent choice to get others involved and learn how to cope, provide better care for their loved ones, and see how they are progressing.
When people have psychosis, whether it’s temporary or chronic, they will most likely depend on those around them to help them function and eventually get back on their feet.
For example, antipsychotic medication can hinder their ability to transport themselves, and therefore, friends and family members will need to assist them.
Family intervention therapy sessions can span across months, but people who get involved can quickly learn how to provide support and the best care possible. Nonetheless, finding the most practical solutions for the problems that can arise can take time and effort.
Studies show that family intervention can have a number of benefits, such as adhering to medical treatment and reducing relapse rates and hospital readmissions. 
This allows individuals to focus on improving their ability to function and hopefully regain a sense of control and independence in their lives.
- Support Groups & Treatment Facilities
Psychosis can make people feel isolated from people, but by attending support groups, people can learn that they are not alone. There are several different groups for people, depending on the reason for their psychosis, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Support groups are typically peer-led and having this connection with people who have had similar experiences can be reassuring and can give them the confidence they need to continue with treatment and live productive lives.
For those who have psychotic symptoms due to substance use disorder, they can also benefit from meetings that are centered around recovery and sobriety, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Sometimes treatments can be managed at home or with meetings, but there are also inpatient treatment centers for people as well who need extra monitoring and resources to detox.
Ultimately, it will be up to the assessment from a professional to determine whether or not a person should be in an outpatient or inpatient program. Sometimes people can start with inpatient and transition to outpatient treatment with the help of friends and family, such as driving them to appointments or picking up medication as well.
For those who struggle with substance use and psychosis, managing and overcoming it will be essential, not only because it contributes to the symptoms, but because it can make the antipsychotic medication less effective and not work as intended. It may also cause adverse reactions and additional side-effects.
How To Get Treatment For Psychosis
Although these are some standard protocols for treating psychotic symptoms, getting specific information will require the diagnosis from a mental health professional who can try to get to the root of why a person is displaying symptoms.
For example, someone with bipolar disorder will have a different plan than someone with schizophrenia. Others might have temporary forms of psychosis, and this can impact the course of treatment as well and can be short-term. In many cases, getting this evaluation often requires intervention from a friend or family member of someone who is in question.
This is because, more often than not, people who are experiencing psychosis don’t recognize the abnormalities of their thinking and behavioral patterns.
Catching a first-time psychotic episode can be crucial, and getting treated early will make a difference, especially if there’s a chance that an underlying chronic mental health disorder may be to blame for the symptoms. If these disorders go untreated, symptoms can become worse over time.
In addition to becoming familiar with the signs of psychosis, you can also take this free psychosis test on behalf of your loved one. Once you have the results, contact a mental health professional immediately for a formal diagnosis and treatment plan that is tailored to them.
Psychosis can be frightening, but it is manageable. If you know someone that is dealing with psychosis, hopefully, these options, including learning about what medication is used for psychosis, will help them get back on track to having normal lives. With medication and therapy, people can continue to be employed and find meaningful relationships, and therefore, still be productive and fulfilled, even with a chronic condition.
- Tost, H., Alam, T., & Meyer-Lindenberg, A. (2010). Dopamine and psychosis: theory, pathomechanisms, and intermediate phenotypes. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 34(5), 689–700. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.06.005
- NHS.uk. (2019, December 10). Psychosis – Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/psychosis/treatment/
- Claxton, M., Onwumere, J., &Fornells-Ambrojo, M. (2017). Do Family Interventions Improve Outcomes in Early Psychosis? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 371. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00371