In this article, learn more about psychosis, including what causes it and the treatment options available.
What is Psychosis?
Psychosis affects how a person thinks and reacts. Their senses can detect things that are not there, and it can be difficult for them to determine what is real and true.
People with psychosis may:
- Listen to the sounds
- See people or objects that aren’t there.
- Odors that other people cannot recognize.
They may also believe that they are in trouble, that someone is following them, or that they are very important when these circumstances are not.
A person may not be aware that they have a psychotic illness because the delusions feel so real to them. Psychosis can be overwhelming and confusing. Sometimes, symptoms can cause a person to self-harm. In rare cases, they can harm another person.
Psychosis is one of the main symptoms of schizophrenia.
Types of Psychosis
Apart from schizophrenia, various other disorders and factors can cause psychosis. The different types include:
- Schizoaffective disorder: This disorder is similar to schizophrenia but involves periods of mood disorders.
- Brief psychotic disorder: Symptoms appear in response to a stressful life event, last less than a month, and do not return.
- Delusional disorder: The person has a strong belief in something irrational and often strange that has no reality.
- Bipolar Psychosis: Some people with bipolar disorder experience psychosis, either during high or low moods.
- Major depression: Also known as major depressive disorder with psychotic features.
- Postpartum (postpartum) psychosis: This type of psychosis can appear after birth.
- Substance-induced psychosis: Alcohol abuse, some recreational drugs, and certain prescription drugs can cause this.
Psychosis can also be caused by other disorders, such as:
- Brain tumor or cyst
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
- Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease
- HIV and other infections that can affect the brain.
- Some types of epilepsy
- A stroke
- Low blood sugar
Symptoms of Psychosis
Signs and symptoms of psychosis include:
- Hallucination: A person hears, sees, smells, tastes or feels things that are not there.
- Delusions: The individual believes things that are false, and may have unfounded fears or suspicions.
- Disorganized thinking, speech, and behavior: The person may jump between unrelated topics in speech and thought, making connections that seem illogical to other people. His speech makes no sense to others.
- Catatonia: The person may become unresponsive.
- Abnormal psychomotor behavior: The person makes involuntary movements, such as pacing, tapping, and fidgeting.
The person may also experience:
- mood changes
- sleep problems
- difficulty focusing
Depending on the cause, psychosis can appear quickly or slowly. It can be mild or severe. In some cases, it may be mild when it first appears but become more severe over time.
The mild, early symptoms of psychosis might include:
- general anxiety
- problems focusing
- neglecting self-care
- sleep problems
- difficulty taking initiative
- lower tolerance to stress
- social isolation
- mild or moderate disturbances in language, energy levels, and thinking
- thoughts and ideas that seem strange to others
- feelings of suspicion
Hallucinations can affect any of the senses — sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch — in the person with psychosis.
The most common types of auditory hallucinations are known to people with schizophrenia. Man hears things and believes them to be real when they are not.
Often, the person hears voices. There can be one or many sounds, and they will sound exactly like real sounds.
Sounds can be:
- Be identifiable, unspecified, or of a person who has died.
- The sound is either clear or muffled in the background.
- Give instructions or criticize the person.
- Be intermittent or constant
Hearing voices can be very confusing, and it can affect a person’s actions. This can cause the individual to harm themselves or, less frequently, others.
Treatment can manage or prevent psychosis, but it can return if the person stops taking their medication.
Causes of Psychosis
The exact causes of psychosis are not well-understood but might involve:
- Genetic Factors: Research suggests that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may share a common genetic cause.
- Hormones: Some people experience postpartum depression after giving birth. Because of this, and the fact that early symptoms of psychosis often first appear in adolescence, some experts have suggested that hormonal factors may play a role in those with genetic susceptibility.
- Brain Changes: Tests have found differences in brain chemicals — specifically, the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine — in people who experience psychosis.
Lack of sleep can also trigger psychosis.
Psychosis is one of the main symptoms of schizophrenia, but there are other causes.
It can be distressing to the individual and those around them, but treatment is available to help manage psychosis in those who are at risk.
It is important to follow a treatment plan for schizophrenia and other mental health conditions to prevent recurrence of psychosis-like symptoms.