Am I Experiencing Psychosis? Test, Evaluation, And Diagnosis Of Psychosis

Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC

Published 12/10/2020

“Am I crazy?” The question itself may not seem unusual. After all, many people stop and ask themselves that question at some point, whether it comes on the heels of a difficult breakup or comes roaring to life during a period of intense stress or turmoil. What is meant by “crazy,” however, will differ from person to person and situation to situation, and may not be asking about the actual symptoms of psychosis. The question is, then, “Do I have psychosis?”

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What Is Psychosis?

The word “psychosis” describes what happens during what is more commonly known as a psychotic episode. While the term “psychotic” is often used to describe violent or dangerous behavior, this is an oversimplification and an unfortunate generalization. A psychotic episode could involve violence but does not need to include violence to qualify as a psychotic episode. Instead, what must be involved in a psychotic episode is an observed break from reality. This could lead to violent behavior, as might be the case with someone who experiences a paranoid psychotic episode and feels as though someone is after them, but could also lead to erratic or “off” behavior instead.

Psychosis is often tied to a mental health issue or a disorder, but it can also be observed on its own. This is because psychosis is not necessarily linked to any one specific disorder or illness but can include a broad spectrum of illness. A break with reality can include the onset of hallucinations, feelings of paranoia, delusions, unusual speech patterns, and inappropriate behavior.

Conditions Known For Psychosis

Although psychosis can be its own issue, without the presence of any other diagnosed conditions, it is more often attached to an existing mental health issue, whether it has been diagnosed or has gone untreated. The most common conditions associated with psychosis include:

  • Schizophrenia is a mental disorder wherein an individual is not connected to reality. People with the Disorder may feel as though they are uniquely instructed by the media, may feel as though everyone is out to get them, or may even see or hear things that are quantifiably not present. Schizophrenia is most commonly treated through medication, and psychotherapy, which can both help manage symptoms of schizophrenia. A schizophrenia test can help differentiate between different disorders associated with psychosis.
  • Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is actually a general term used to describe several subtypes of the Disorder, which are typically characterized and diagnosed according to severity. In mild Bipolar Disorder (called Cyclothymic Disorder), people will experience periods of depression and hypomania. In severe Bipolar, however (called Bipolar Disorder II), people will experience periods of depression and mania. It is the manic episodes of Bipolar that most commonly escalate into psychotic episodes, and it is during these periods that some people with severe Bipolar require hospitalization or similarly intensive treatment methods in order to stabilize and successfully manage symptoms.
  • Schizoaffective Disorder. Schizoaffective Disorderis less common and less well-understood and well-known than schizophrenia but shares many symptoms. Schizoaffective Disorder may also be characterized by a loss of touch with reality, including delusions and hallucinations, but differs in that it largely impacts the ability to discern reality and negatively affects mood. Schizophrenia may not involve the same mood-based symptoms. A paranoia test can be helpful in identifying some of the more common symptoms of this Disorder.
  • Postpartum Depression (severe). Postpartum Depression may be incorrectly diagnosed when Postpartum Psychosis is a more likely diagnosis or maybe a precursor to the development of Postpartum Psychosis. This particular type of psychosis is driven by the emotional and hormonal changes inherent in pregnancy and childbirth and is considered highly dangerous to both the parent and as self-harm and harming others are common impulses within the Disorder.
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Although the conditions listed above are known for their ties to psychosis and the possibility of experiencing psychotic episodes, they are by no means a comprehensive identification of all possible sources of psychosis. Instead, psychosis can be caused by a slew of other issues, including brain chemistry affected by tumor growth, physical damage to the brain, drug or substance abuse, viral infection, and even stroke. The causes of psychosis are varied and diverse and can include both biological and emotional changes. The onset of psychosis may actually be a symptom indicating that something has gone awry in the brain or can be a clear indication that drug or alcohol abuse is at play.

Evaluating Symptoms For Psychosis Presentation

Although there is an old adage that questioning if you’re crazy, is a sure sign that you are not, in fact, crazy, this is not necessarily a legitimate gauge for testing sanity. This is because psychosis is not usually an ongoing, perpetual state. Instead, psychosis frequently includes periods of “popping up,” or periods of sanity staggered in with psychotic episodes. During these “pop up” periods, people may question their sanity and begin to wonder if the behavior they notice in themselves is not considered normal or typical behavior. If you are genuinely questioning, “Am I psychotic?” evaluation may be necessary to make sure nothing is truly amiss in your mental health. An online psychosis test, rather than an online “Am I Psychotic” quiz, can help determine the likelihood of your symptoms pointing to psychosis or something else entirely. Rather than

The evaluation completed by a mental health professional will involve both self-reported symptoms and observations conducted during the first therapy appointment. Having a list of symptoms and any suspicions you might have about your condition can be immensely helpful for mental health professionals and can ease some of the fear and anxiety often associated with venturing into an unknown situation. Having a list of symptoms and an open mind can go a long way in effectively identifying symptoms and subsequently receiving a diagnosis, so stepping into a therapy office with some idea of what you’d most like to learn about yourself or discover about your condition can be a helpful technique. Although it is not the job of a patient to diagnose their own condition, it is the job of the patient to deliver an honest and thorough list of signs and symptoms.

Psychosis Diagnosis And Treatment

“Psychosis” is, in itself, not a diagnosis, but is instead a symptom of another condition or Disorder. Because psychosis can lead to a host of different diagnoses, the process of diagnosis and treatment will vary considerably. If psychosis, for instance, is related to a tumor or a physical ailment such as neurological trauma, the diagnosis will involve psychosis and an evaluation completed by a licensed physician—a “psychosis test,” in essence. If substance abuse is involved, a therapist and a medical professional may be involved, as substance abuse has a large number of psychological components but can also involve a great deal of physical implications.

In the case of personality and mood disorders that may involve psychosis, medication and psychotherapy are likely to follow a diagnosis as the preferred method of treatment. For some, this will include a period of inpatient treatment, particularly if the psychotic episode involved danger to the person experiencing the episode or to others.

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The most effective way to treat a psychotic episode is to use a multi-pronged approach. Because early and robust treatment can make all the difference between subsequent psychotic episodes and making a full recovery, most psychosis is treated with multiple approaches, including psychotherapy, medication, workplace supports, and additional support systems, such as support groups designed for people who suffer from psychosis or related disorders. All of these different types of treatments can, together, create the ideal cocktail of treatment options to help people with psychosis heal from their condition and go on to lead healthy full lives.

After Diagnosis: What Comes Next?

After receiving a diagnosis of psychosis—and perhaps a corresponding disorder or condition—the first step in treatment typically involves taking a close look at the potential sources of psychosis and identifying the best course of action to treat psychosis. Anti-psychotic medication may be one of the first treatment methods utilized for psychosis, as they can help temper some of the more intense indications of psychosis, such as paranoia, manic behavior, and violent behaviors and impulses. Although, again, the term “anti-psychotic” is often understood to mean “anti-violent,” this is not the case; instead, anti-psychotic is used to describe medication that soothes the frayed thought patterns of people experiencing a psychotic episode and can be used in conjunction with existing medications, such as anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants.

Receiving a psychosis-related diagnosis can be frightening. From tumors to substance abuse to mental disorders, psychosis can take on a host of forms and can indicate a litany of different conditions. Although the term itself might inspire a feeling of fear or confusion, psychosis is a highly treatable condition, provided that treatment regimens are adhered to, treatment is started as early as possible following the onset of symptoms, and the treatment plan involves plenty of interventions. With time, attention, and the proper degree of care, people who have had a psychotic episode can lead healthy, happy, and deeply fulfilling lives and can even make a full recovery and never again experience the intensity of a subsequent episode.