Perhaps you’ve heard the term “psychosis.” Many of us have heard the word and have a vague idea of what it describes. As almost 3 in 100 people will experience an episode of psychosis sometime in their lives, it’s important to get the facts straight.
If you had a rough idea of what psychosis is, keep it in your mind now. You might be surprised at what you learn.
Here are four things you should know about psychosis:
- Psychosis is a symptom, not a disease. Psychosis can be related to other mental health conditions, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or substance use disorder, but isn’t always. For instance, psychosis is a characterizing component of schizophrenia. But not everyone who experiences psychosis is schizophrenic. Almost always, psychosis includes one or both of these experiences: delusions (strong beliefs that are inconsistent with the surrounding culture, such as that the person is being controlled by external forces or that trivial comments have intensely personal significance) or hallucinations (the sensory experience of seeing, tasting, hearing, feeling things that are not there)
- Teenagers and young adults are more likely to experience psychosis. About 100,000 young adults experience psychosis for the first time (first-episode psychosis) every year. Hormonal changes associated with puberty put youth at a greater risk for psychosis.
- Recognizing and treating the symptoms of psychosis at an early stage substantially improves health outcomes. Many people who experience an episode of psychosis will make a full recovery. A psychotic episode should be addressed and supported by qualified medical professionals who will search for the health condition that triggered the psychosis. Psychosis can be triggered by past trauma, genetics, neurological disease, the use of substances (alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens) or a mental health condition, like schizoaffective disorder or depression.
- First-episode psychosis, or early psychosis, often appears gradually. Because perceptual changes can be subtle and may not be evident to the person experiencing them, it’s sometimes hard to recognize psychosis until the symptoms have become severe. The symptoms can also be hard to distinguish from typical young adult behavior, but if they co-occur or persist, it’s best to seek medical input to rule out psychosis. Here are symptoms of early psychosis to watch for:
- Being suspicious or uneasy around others
- Isolation or spending a larger amount of time alone
- Giving less attention to personal hygiene and self-care
- Difficult thinking clearly or logically
- Declining performance in school or job
- Extreme emotional reactions – or no emotional response at all
- Catatonia, or unresponsiveness
- Having outlier or illogical thoughts that persist
If you or someone you know has experienced the symptoms of psychosis, it could be the right time to touch base with a trained therapist. Together, recovery is possible.