Psychosis is characterized as an impaired relationship between fantasy and reality. Psychosis is also associated with serious mental health disorders. Persons who are psychotic may have either hallucinations or delusions. Most people make the erroneous assumption that that psychosis refers to a break with reality, in a way it is. However, psychosis is characterized as disruptions in a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what is not. Disruptions can include auditory, olfactory, visual, tactile, or oral hallucinations which can lead the suffer to believe things that are not real, having strange/persistent thoughts, behaviors and emotions. While everyone’s experience is different, most people say psychosis is frightening and confusing.

Notably, psychosis is a symptom, not a disorder. Early psychosis usually comes gradually, with no immediate or noticeable symptoms. Usually, a person has gradual, non-specific changes in thoughts and perceptions, but struggles to understand what’s going on. Early warning signs can be difficult to distinguish from typical teen or young adult behavior. While such signs should not be cause for alarm, they may indicate the need to get an assessment from a doctor.

Encouraging people to seek help for early psychosis is important. Families are often the first to see early signs of psychosis and the first to address the issue of seeking treatment. However, a person’s willingness to accept help is often complicated by delusions, fears, stigma and feeling unsettled. In this case, families can find the situation extremely difficult, but there are engagement strategies to help encourage a person to seek help.

Early Warning Signs of Psychosis Include:

  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Decline or significant change in ADL’s, i.e., unkempt, failing to dress for the weather, etc.
  • Suspicious thinking or intense paranoia
  • Self-isolating behaviors
  • Inappropriate affect, i.e., flat, heightened response not appropriate for situation, etc.
  • Interruptions and or declines in functioning
  • Auditory, visual, olfactory, tactile, or oral hallucinations
  • Persistent, unusual thoughts or beliefs that can’t be set aside regardless of what others believe
  • Fantastical thinking, i.e., believing he/she has magical powers, believing words or actions of others have personal meaning or significance, etc.

Potential Causes of Psychosis Include:

  • Genetics
  • Substance use/abuse
  • Trauma
  • Mental illness
  • Physical injury/organic

Treatment Options Include:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Case management
  • Medication
  • Peer support
  • Family counseling
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

Fortunately, psychosis does not have many medical complications. However, if left untreated, it can be challenging for persons experiencing psychosis to take good care of themselves, engage with others, and refrain from fantastical thinking. Sadly, this can lead to other illnesses left untreated. Most people who experience psychosis will recover with proper treatment. Even in severe cases, medication and therapy can help.