What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is a broad term referring to when a person has perceptions and experiences that don’t exist in reality. The experiences are typically sensory in nature and make it difficult for the person to differentiate between what’s happening in reality and what’s happening only in his or her own mind. Hallucinations or delusions experienced during a psychotic episode especially may prevent the affected individual from being able to recognize reality.
Experiences in psychosis may be seen or heard. Psychosis may also encompass beliefs that aren’t rooted in reality. Experiencing psychosis may be bewildering and induce feelings of extreme anxiety. Someone experiencing psychosis can have episodes of extreme emotion and unintentionally hurt themselves or others, which is a significant risk.
Psychosis is generally seen as a symptom of other conditions, rather than a condition in and of itself. Conditions that may induce psychosis include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms of Psychosis
Psychotic episodes generally consist of two main symptoms: hallucinations and delusions.
A hallucination is a visual or auditory sensation that isn’t real and occurs only in the affected individual’s mind. Hallucinations can also be bizarre sensations or feelings that don’t make sense in the context of reality. During a hallucination, things or people may be distorted or appear when they’re not actually there. An auditory hallucination during a psychotic episode often takes the form of voices that are only heard inside the individual’s mind.
Delusions are thoughts or beliefs that may not be rooted in truth, go against the individual’s cultural norms, or are perceived as senseless to others. Delusions that occur during a psychotic episode may be confusing to both the affected individual and the people around them examples of delusions include:
- The belief that commonplace or inconsequential things, events, or objects have great significance, meaning, or power.
- The belief that extrinsic powers have control over your mind, body, and behaviors
- The belief that you have other-worldly powers or the powers of God
How is Psychosis Treated?
Psychosis treatment may involve mediations and/or psychotherapy. Treatment of psychosis also may vary depending on the type of psychosis that’s experienced. Psychosis may be most effectively treated early on (ideally during the very first episode).
Antipsychotic drugs are one of the most common treatments for psychosis. These drugs can lessen the symptoms of psychotic episodes but aren’t effective in curing the problem or treating the conditions that may cause psychosis. Antipsychotic drugs are often used to ease symptoms in people who suffer from schizophrenia and related conditions.
Psychotherapy may be helpful in the treatment of conditions that cause psychosis (such as alcohol or drug abuse, PTSD, schizophrenia, and others) as well as the symptoms that accompany psychosis like social isolation, abnormal emotional states, etc. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be especially helpful in these circumstances. This therapy method can help reduce hallucinations and delusions by identifying thought patterns that may trigger psychotic episodes.
WHEN TO SEE A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.
If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.
And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.
Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:
- Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
- Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
- Encourage resilience and self-management
- Identify and change negative behaviors
- Identify and encourage positive behaviors
- Heal pain from past trauma
- Figure out goals and waypoints
- Build self-confidence
Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?
Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.
So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.
Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.
WHEN TO GET EMERGENCY HELP
Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:
- Make sure someone stays with that person.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.