Psychosis is a symptom that can arise as a result of various mental illnesses and is characterized by hallucinations and delusions. Let us read more in detail about this condition.
Psychosis is a mental disorder where there is difficulty in differentiating between reality and imaginary sights, sounds, smell, tastes, emotions, and behavior. The person sees, hears, and perceives things that others cannot. Psychosis is not a disease in itself, but a symptom that accompanies various mental health conditions such as:
Individuals with psychosis either experience hallucinations or delusions. Hearing or seeing things that are not actually present is called hallucinations. Seeing things or a person who is not present is called visual hallucinations, and hearing someone shouting or some other random noise is called auditory hallucinations. Delusions are getting thoughts that are completely irrational to actual evidence. Some patients also experience loss of motivation and withdrawal from society. All these symptoms can get scary, which can make a person harm self or others. The best thing to do is to consult a psychiatrist immediately if you notice a loved one or relative showing such symptoms.
The types of psychosis include:
Brief psychotic disorder - Also called reactive psychosis, usually occurs during periods of grief or extreme personal stress. The loss of a loved one is a good example of this type of psychosis. Such patients recover in a few days to weeks.
Organic psychosis - In some cases, brain damage due to infection, illness, or injury can result in symptoms of psychosis.
Drug-induced or alcohol-induced psychosis - This is the type of psychosis that is triggered by the use of alcohol and drugs such as Methamphetamine and Cocaine. People with substance or alcohol addiction might experience psychotic symptoms when they stop drinking or doing drugs cold-turkey.
Postpartum or postnatal psychosis - it is a severe form of depression following childbirth.
Mental health disorders that can result in symptoms of psychosis are called psychotic disorders. The common psychotic disorders include:
Bipolar disorder - Such patients have severe mood swings. Their mood might be high and very good a minute and suddenly they might experience psychotic symptoms.
Delusional disorder - These patients strongly believe in things that are not real.
Schizophrenia - Such patients interpret reality abnormally and it is a lifelong disease, which can result in psychotic symptoms.
Psychotic depression - It is a type of major depression with symptoms of psychosis.
As mentioned above, the main symptoms are hallucinations and delusions.
Hallucination - It is a sensory perception, that is seeing, hearing, or smelling things that are absent. People who hallucinate see people or things that do not exist, usually when they are alone.
Delusions - It is a wrong belief and irrational thoughts. Delusion can be:
Delusions of paranoia - Such people think that someone is sending them secret messages or someone is stalking them.
Grandiose delusions - Such people have an exaggerated sense of importance.
Somatic delusions - Such people believe that they have some life-threatening illness, but in fact, they are completely healthy.
The other symptoms are:
Lack of co-ordination in thoughts, actions, and speech.
Lack of focus.
Feeling suspicious and anxious always.
Disregard for personal hygiene.
Change in personality.
The exact cause is still not clear, but there are certain diseases that can result in psychosis. Triggers that are known to worsen or cause the onset of psychotic episodes in those vulnerable to it are:
Lack of sleep.
Brain diseases (Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease).
Brain cysts or tumors.
Mental health conditions.
HIV and syphilis.
Genetics - conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have a common genetic cause.
Hormonal imbalance and Sleep disturbances - these are the main factors responsible for postpartum psychosis.
Changes in the brain - change in the brain structure and chemicals, and reduced grey matter has been found in people with psychosis.
The doctor may perform an EEG or brain scan to rule out brain-related physical causes. Once they are ruled out, the doctor will pinpoint a mental illness as the cause based on family history, medical history, personal history, and physical examination.
For psychosis, earlier the treatment is initiated, better is the outcome and quality of life in the long run. Treatment includes:
Medications - Psychiatric medications help improve symptoms, and can make other treatments more effective. The doctor might prescribe some of the following medicines:
Antidepressants - they treat symptoms such as hopelessness, sadness, and lack of energy.
Anti-anxiety medications - these drugs reduce agitation and sleep problems.
Mood-stabilizers - these medicines help in stabilizing the mood of patients with bipolar disorder.
Antipsychotic medications - are most commonly prescribed for schizophrenia and bipolar patients.
Psychotherapy - Otherwise called talk therapy, is when you talk to a mental health provider about your problems and symptoms. With the help of this therapy, patients learn ways to cope with stressful situations in a healthier way.
Brain-stimulation treatments - It is only employed when there is no improvement even after medications and psychotherapy. This includes:
Vagus nerve stimulation.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Deep brain stimulation.
Treatment for substance or alcohol addiction - As substance addiction commonly occurs with mental disorders, treatment is needed to break this addiction.
Family education and awareness programs - You need to work together with the mental health professional in deciding which treatment is best for you. In severe cases, a loved one will have to make all the decisions until you recover enough to make your own decisions.
A person with a mental illness is difficult to comprehend and handle for someone who has never been exposed to one. He/she is sometimes misunderstood by even their own family and friends. But, it is crucial to realize that they do not want the illness or imagine it in their head. Just like any other physical illness such as fever, having a mental illness is beyond their control and does not mean they are weak. They do better with reassurance and non-judgemental involvement from close members. If your loved one suffers from psychosis, make sure you understand the condition thoroughly. That is the first step in treating them with success.
For more information on psychosis and psychotic disorders, consult a psychiatrist online now!
The early or first signs of psychosis are:
- Mood swings.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Social withdrawal.
- Concentration problems.
- A decline in personal hygiene.
- Communication problems.
People who exhibit an impaired relationship with reality or may hear or see things that are not really there are said to exhibit psychotic behavior.
Sadly, there is no cure for psychotic disorder, but it can be effectively managed with the help of antipsychotic drugs and psychotherapy.
A person who is experiencing a psychotic episode might exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- Hearing voices in a silent room.
- Feeling of being touched.
- Seeing people or objects that are not there.
- Beliefs that do not make sense to others.
Different types of psychosis are caused due to different reasons, and the exact cause is still not known. The factors that seem to trigger psychosis are drug abuse, lack of sleep, brain diseases (Parkinson’s disease), brain tumors, and some types of dementia.
A psychotic state of mind is when your brain does not process information properly, which makes you lose touch with reality. This can result in feeling, seeing, hearing, and believing things that are not real.
Early childhood trauma, such as child abuse, sexual abuse, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), has been found to trigger psychosis.
There is still not enough proof to say for sure that psychosis can damage the brain. But some studies show that untreated psychosis can be biologically toxic to the brain.
With the advancement in the treatment of severe mental disorders, including psychotic disorder, there are chances that a person can live a normal and fulfilled life with psychosis. With the right medicine and therapy, psychosis can be managed to a great extent.
The main difference is that psychosis is not a mental health disorder on its own, but rather a group of symptoms experienced by people affected by mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Last reviewed at:
13 Apr 2020 - 5 min read
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