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Causes of Psychosis - An Overview

Published on Dec 20, 2022 and last reviewed on Mar 06, 2023   -  5 min read


Psychosis is an unnatural mental condition that shows impairment in distinguishing between real and fantasy.


Psychosis is simply known for disconnection from reality. Psychosis is not an illness but a combination of symptoms developing due to underlying psychological related disorders, medical conditions, and other substances. About one percent of the world population encounters a psychotic disorder. It is problematic on its own, mainly affecting adolescents between late teens and thirties.

What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is an abnormal cognitive condition in which a person experiences certain things contrary to reality. Psychotic people cannot distinguish what is real and what is not. They, at most times, have confused and disturbed thoughts and are unaware of their environment. A psychotic episode usually occurs as a prodromal symptom of mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The usage of toxins, alcohol, or drug also accompanies it. These two signs feature psychosis.

  • Hallucination- It is the fallacious perception of visual, auditory, and other sensations.

  • Delusion- In simple terms, it is a false belief.

What Causes Psychosis?

Psychosis is a symptom rather than an illness. The cause of psychosis is not just one component but many factors and conditions. Hence, psychosis is categorized based on the fact of cause. The causes are based on incorporating primary psychosis using psychiatric conditions or illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression, while secondary by toxins, drugs, or general conditions.

Hereditary and Genetics. Psychosis may inherit from parents and siblings. However, certain studies are going on how genes are involved in psychosis.

Psychiatric Conditions:

The psychotic episode, the first sign of mental conditions, chiefly occurs in the absence of physical conditions. This incidence is attributable to the alteration in the functioning of the brain. Here comes the typical psychiatric illness exhibiting psychosis.

  • Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a severe global mental disorder affecting about twenty-four million people worldwide. The rate of incidence is one in 222 people. Schizophrenia is a chronic condition that affects and impairs one’s perception, comprehension, and thoughts. This impairment eventually interferes with behavior and daily activities. Therefore, the chronic condition demands treatment over a lifetime.

  • Bipolar Disorder: Often known as manic depression, it is a chronic mood disorder featuring mood swings ranging from low depressive to a high manic state—the person with bipolar disorder experiences either depression or heightened excitability. The mood episodes could progress, lasting for months to years. And a person with bipolar depression is more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

  • Major Depression: Major depression, so-called clinical depression, is a chronic disorder characterized as a low mood or depressed state over a prolonged period. Depression is significantly due to chemical imbalances in the brain. In addition, this subsequently brings on a loss of interest in daily activities.

Besides, psychotic symptoms might be seen in the following mental conditions.

  • Personality disorders such as paranoid, borderline, and schizoid.

  • Post-traumatic stress.

  • Delusional disorder.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD.

  • Dissociative disorders.

  • Eating disorders include bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

  • Chronic hallucinatory psychosis.

  • Schizoaffective disorder.

Medical Conditions:

A wide variety of medical conditions can induce a psychotic episode, and this kind of psychosis is further termed secondary psychosis. And such medical illnesses are named below.

  • Delirium is an impairment of mental ability resulting in altered thinking and confusion.

  • Degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and dementia.

  • Epileptic disorders encounter a significant number of seizure attacks. This condition is termed postictal psychosis.

  • Malignancy or cancer in the brain.

  • Stroke or cerebrovascular accident, CVA.

  • A disease of protective covering, myelin sheath of nerve named multiple sclerosis.

  • Benign and malignant brain tumors.

  • Infectious diseases like AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), encephalitis (inflammation in the brain and its membranes), syphilis (a bacterial infection acquired through sexual contact), and malaria (a disease transferred to humans from an infected mosquito’s bite).

  • Endocrinal disorders such as hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome, and hypoparathyroidism. The psychosis associated with the thyroid hormones is entitled to myxedematous psychosis.

  • Menstrual psychosis is rare yet affects the thoughts and moods of women. This kind of psychotic episode is due to altered hormone levels.

  • Several women develop psychotic symptoms after giving birth to a child, referred to as postpartum psychosis.

  • Vitamin B12 nutritional deficiency.

  • Innate metabolic disorders like porphyria, Wilson’s disease, and homocysteinemia.

  • Electrolyte-based acquired metabolic disorders due to an increase or decrease in the levels of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. Also, recurs in kidney and liver failures.

  • Hypoxia.

  • Huntington’s disease.

  • Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder in which rapid eye movement sleep is often interrupted.

  • DiGeorge syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality disorder.

  • Autoimmune disorders include sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and steroid-responsive encephalopathy.

  • Neurocysticercosis is an infectious disease of parasite cysticercosis.


Various legal and illegal psychoactive substances and drugs induce cognitive impairment resulting in psychosis. In addition, prolonged use or intoxication of those drugs would significantly exacerbate psychotic disorders. Psychosis due to the drug and alcohol presents extreme symptoms and even heightened suicidal thoughts. Therefore, the succeeding substances are specified to cause psychosis.

  • Cannabis: Cannabis suppresses the nervous system by affecting brain activity. A recent study demonstrates that cannabis is more probably to cause the psychotic disorder.

  • Stimulants: Amphetamine is a stimulant staging short and long-lasting psychotic disorders. Besides, it is illustrated that about 25 to 46 percent of Amphetamine users have psycho symptoms. Cocaine is also a stimulant suppressing brain activity.

  • Alcohol: Chronic alcohol consumption staging both intoxication and withdrawal carries psychosis. The incidence rate of psychosis is about three percent for alcoholics, who are more likely to have depression and suicide. The process is the distortion of neuronal membranes and deficiency of thiamine, leading to psychosis.

  • Drugs: Psychosis can also occur as an adverse side effect of certain prescribed drugs. Psychiatric drugs or antipsychotic drugs rarely influence cognition.

Abuse and Trauma:

People who came across abuse or sexual assault in the past have an increased risk of psychosis. Trauma also triggers psychotic episodes.

What Are the Indications of Psychosis?

  • Difficulty in thinking.

  • Disability to focus and concentration.

  • Seeing and hearing things others cannot.

  • Encountering false beliefs.

  • Impairment in paying attention.

  • Confused state at most times.

  • A sudden drop in performances.

  • Constriction in social circle and solitariness.

  • Strange expressions or no emotions.

  • Fantasy world.


Psychosis is one of the effectively manageable conditions if it is diagnosed early. This is because the interventions address the underlying condition and primary causes of psychotic episodes. Nevertheless, it is essential to identify those at higher risk and ensure they receive appropriate guidance and treatment to prevent further progression.


Last reviewed at:
06 Mar 2023  -  5 min read




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