Around 100,000 American teens and young adults experience first-episode psychosis (FEP) each year. FEP, also known as early psychosis, occurs when an individual has trouble differentiating what is real and imaginary.
The first signs and symptoms of psychosis may be highly distressful and confusing for many people, as they are often characterized by a loss of connection with the real world. For example, people who experience psychosis may experience troubling symptoms such as hearing or seeing things that aren’t really there (hallucinations), strange or unusual beliefs (delusions), paranoia or trouble communicating with other people effectively.
Although psychosis is one of the major causes of disability, recent empirical studies demonstrate that early intervention is key in helping individuals recover. As people can, and do, recover from psychosis with timely care, it is important to recognize when to seek treatment from a qualified professional if you think that you or a loved one are first showing signs of any kind of psychotic disorder. Continue reading on to learn more about psychosis and related disorders.
What Causes Psychosis?
Psychosis is most commonly recognized as a symptom of schizophrenia, which affects about 1 percent of the population in their lifetime. However, psychosis can be brought on by other conditions and circumstances, including alcohol or drug use or extreme personal stress (e.g., work, death of a loved one, financial issues).
Like other serious mental health conditions, psychosis most commonly affects people in late adolescence or young adulthood and is likely to be caused by a combination of inherited genes and environmental factors such as toxins (e.g., certain illnesses (e.g., brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke), high stress, drug or alcohol use or even some medications. Research has also revealed that every individual is born with certain ‘risk’ and ‘protective’ factors that can influence one’s chance of developing psychosis as well as other mental illnesses.
For example, people are considered to be at a greater risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms when they have a parent or sibling who has a psychotic disorder. In addition, stimulant drugs such as cocaine and certain medications can also trigger symptoms of psychosis albeit these symptoms typically dissipate within a few days to a few weeks, depending on the person.
What are the Types of Psychotic Disorders?
Psychosis, which is a mental illness characterized by bizarre thinking, behaviors, emotions and perceptions (e.g., hearing voices), occurs in about 3.5 percent of the population, reported Mental Health America (MHA). Psychosis is considered a primary feature of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia but may also occur in people who have major depression, bipolar disorder and other types of mental illness. So, while psychosis is often viewed as a rare condition, its prevalence is actually far more frequent than commonly thought. Some of the potential mental disorders with psychotic symptoms include:
Schizophrenia: A serious mental illness that is characterized by psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thoughts and behaviour and persists for at least six months. Proper treatment helps one lead a happy and fulfilling life.
Brief Reactive Psychosis: Also known as brief psychotic disorder, brief reactive psychosis consists of psychotic symptoms that are triggered by major stress in the individual’s life (e.g., a loved one’s death or some accident); however, one recovers quickly in this case.
Substance-Induced Psychosis: The use of some types of illicit drugs and prescribed medications, including cannabis, amphetamines and hallucinogens, can trigger psychotic symptoms in some people, which tend to last for longer periods. People who suddenly stop drinking alcohol or taking certain drugs may also be prone to developing psychotic symptoms.
Bipolar Disorder: Marked by major and sudden shifts in mood, clients who have bipolar disorder may also experience psychotic symptoms (e.g., hallucinations and delusions), sometimes referred to as bipolar psychosis, in the midst of a depressive or manic episode. A person experiencing a manic episode may be more likely to believe he or she has special powers, for example.
Psychotic Depression: Psychotic features affect about 20 percent of people with major depressive disorder (MDD). Also known as major depression with psychotic features, people with psychotic depression experience symptoms of both depression and psychosis. For example, people who have psychotic depression may have auditory hallucinations, or hear voices, which may tell them to hurt themselves or die.
How can one recognize the symptoms of Psychosis for loved ones?
One does not need to be a professional to recognize the signs and symptoms of a psychotic person. Any person can at least take a step to help someone by:
- Being apprehensive of someone behaving oddly,
- Being apprehensive of someone experiencing hallucinations or delusions
- Helping them find and get suitable help.
A person who suffers from psychotic symptoms is generally not able to differentiate between what is real and what is not and hence they become defensive when a second person tries to oppose them. At times a patient can identify their thoughts as ‘not quite right’ and reach out for help.
During the probable onset of psychosis, it is vital to assist the patient in bearing these confusing and frightening changes. It is important that one does not panic or overreact to these individuals and stay positive. Let them have confidence that you are worried for them and encourage them to see a professional who can examine and provide a safe, supporting and appropriate surroundings.
Get the Right Treatment
Psychosis is a serious medical illness that needs professional examination and treatment. Treatment for psychosis includes not only antipsychotics but also psychotherapy, family therapy, counseling, cognitive behavioral therapies. With the delay in treatment, psychosis can progress even more and disrupt one’s life, so it’s important to get help at the earliest.
At AKUA Mind & Body, our clinical team understands that treating mental health issues at the same time as any underlying or co-occurring substance use disorders can help clients recover from psychotic symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing psychosis or any mental health issue, you can contact us on our 24/7 Admissions Helpline for a free, confidential assessment.