They say they have special powers They say they are controlled by someone else They say they are being watched or spied upon
They appear paranoid or suspicious
They say they have special powers
They say they are controlled by someone else
They say they are being watched or spied upon
They find it hard to pay attention They often forget things Simple tasks are becoming difficult Their language appears inconsistent
They have difficulty concentrating
They find it hard to pay attention
They often forget things
Simple tasks are becoming difficult
Their language appears inconsistent
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and if you are having some strange experiences that you cannot explain, it is possible that you are having a psychotic episode. A psychotic episode is an altered experience of reality, affecting thoughts, feelings, behaviour and beliefs. A person may become isolated, withdrawn, disturbed, distressed or agitated.
Psychosis can occur in a number of mental illnesses including:
- Drug-induced psychosis: using or withdrawing from drugs (e.g. cannabis or amphetamines)
- Brief reactive psychosis: psychotic symptoms appear suddenly after a major stress in the person’s life
- Schizophrenia: an illness in which the symptoms have continued for at least six months
- Bipolar disorder: people can experience psychotic symptoms as part of this disorder
- Psychotic depression: psychotic symptoms can occur in people with very severe depression
A first episode of psychosis is most likely to happen in late adolescence or in the early adult years. It is often frightening for the person and misunderstood by others, but psychosis can be treated and most people make a full recovery. Many people who have a psychotic episode lead happy and fulfilling lives.
Signs and Symptoms
- See, hear, feel, smell or taste something that doesn’t actually exist
- Have fixed thoughts about something that isn’t true
- Believe their thoughts are being controlled by someone else
- Be unable to understand and communicate their feelings
- Feel apathetic, lack motivation or withdraw from contact with others
- Feel like a simple task (such as washing up) is a major event
- Have problems with work, social or family life
- Experience thoughts speeding up or slowing down
- Feel they are being watched or singled out for harm (paranoia)
- Believe they have special powers or are an important religious or political figure (grandiosity)
- Believe they are guilty of a terrible crime
- Have problems with sleep
- Feel distanced or detached from one’s body or thoughts
- Feel that the surrounding world is strange or not real
- Feel unusually excited or have increased activity
- Feel down, depressed or are experiencing mood swings
- Find it hard to show emotions
- Feel less emotions than other people do
- Be unable to understand sentences
- Respond differently to situations (e.g. laughing when things don’t seem funny)
Why Should You Seek Help?
Safe and effective treatments for psychosis are easily available so the earlier you seek help, the better the results and the quicker your recovery. If you are having some strange experiences that you cannot explain, it is important that you tell someone you trust such as a parent, teacher or friend. Without treatment psychosis can seriously disrupt your life and development.
Treatments of psychosis usually involve:
- Medication (i.e. antipsychotic medications)
- Education about the illness
- Family support and
- Practical support (such as helping you get back to school or work)
Avoiding recreational drugs, reducing stress and learning ways to cope with stress can help prevent the symptoms from returning in the future.
How Do I Help Someone Else Cope With Psychosis?
If you are a parent, family member or carer of someone you know who may be having a psychotic episode, it is important to try to be calm and supportive as it can be frightening and confusing to experience psychosis. If you are worried about a friend or family member, seek help from your GP or local mental health service, and encourage the person to get professional treatment as early as possible. Practical help can assist a person to stay safe and feel secure. This might mean helping them to pay bills or rent, or getting them to medical appointments.
If someone is suggesting they will harm themselves, it is important to call your mental health service or hospital to arrange urgent specialist attention. Remember the person may be responding to things that are real to them but do not make sense to you. There are support groups for family and friends of people with psychosis.