What is Psychosis? 

Psychosis is when your thoughts become disturbed so that you lose touch with reality and the way other people see the world. This can be distressing, as it may affect the way you behave, and how you interact with family and friends. 

During a ‘Psychotic episode’ you may hear voices, or see things which others cannot. You may feel ‘paranoid’ or begin to have strange or irrational thoughts. 

Psychosis can affect people of all ages, but usually affects young people when they reach older teenage years. Although it can seem frightening, psychosis is a treatable condition. Some people may only experience one episode of psychosis, while others might need ongoing treatment.

What causes Psychosis?

Having a psychotic episode can be a signal of another underlying illness. It can also be the result of a physical illness such as a severe infection. It may be the due to the misuse of drugs (like cannabis) or alcohol. It may also be brought on by stress or depression.

Psychosis could however, could be the sign of another mental problem, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

When you have psychosis, you will usually experience very unusual and sometimes unpleasant thoughts and experiences. They may appear suddenly, making you feel really frightened. They can also creep in so gradually that only people like your close family and friends notice you are behaving strangely.

What are the symptoms of Psychosis?

  • Hallucinations  - an experience where you hear, feel, smell or see things that aren't there
  • Delusions – Having an unshakeable belief in something not true (the Prime minister is really a lizard) 
  • Paranoia - Feeling that you're being followed or your life is in danger
  • Thought Disorder – an experience of muddled thinking where you have difficulty concentrating

Having these strange experiences can affect your daily life. Coping with school, managing at home with family, or how you interact with your friends. 

You may find it difficult to enjoy your usual activities, and even find that your appetite and sleep is also affected

How is Psychosis treated?

Medications called ‘antipsychotics’ are an important part of treatment. They may need to be taken for a long time in order to stay well. As with medication of any kind, there can be side-effects; the doctor you see will be able to advise you on these and what can be done to help.

Psychological therapies have been shown to be successful when helping people with psychosis these include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and family therapy. 

Other forms of treatment are also important. You and your family will need help to understand more about your illness, how to manage it, and how to help prevent it coming back. You may need support to rebuild your confidence to continue with school or college, and to socialise with friends and peers.

If the psychosis is related to drug use or an underlying physical illness, you may need specific help and treatment to manage this.

Key Point

Having a psychotic episode can be a signal of another underlying illness.  

Medications called ‘antipsychotics’ are an important part of treatment. They may need to be taken for a long time in order to stay well.